INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 13(9), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1969
WYETH MEDICA IRELAND
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Ms Jenkinson
Employer Member: Mr Keogh
Worker Member: Mr O'Neill
1. Appeal against Rights Commissioner's Recommendation IR 487/99/GF.
2. The worker concerned commenced employment with the Company as a temporary processing operator on the 7th of September, 1998, on an eleven week contract. He was employed specifically for the duties of tablet inspection, which is one aspect of the processing operator's job. In January, 1999, the Company advertised internally for permanent processing operators and 32 temporary processing operators applied and were interviewed for the position. As a result, 28 were made permanent. The worker was one of four unsuccessful candidates but he had his contract extended until the 16th of April, 1999 and was assigned to the full range of duties. His employment was terminated on the 31st of March, 1999 and he was paid for the remaining period of his contract. The Company's position is that its decision not to extend the worker's contract was based on his poor performance when assigned to full duties.
The worker claimed that he had been unfairly treated and referred the matter to a Rights Commissioner for investigation and recommendation. He argues that his transfer to the full range of duties resulted in his working in an environment where he was not liked and that the stress caused contributed to his standard of work diminishing. The Rights Commissioner's findings and recommendation are as follows:-
"It emerged during the hearing that the claimant had been bullied on day one of his employment. He reported the matter to his supervisor who was present at the Rights Commissioner's hearing. The supervisor confirmed he had received the complaint and said he suggested to the claimant that he put it in writing. He then went on to explain how he had raised the matter with the person in question who agreed to desist from his extraordinary behaviour, but the supervisor did not convey the outcome of his enquiries to the claimant.
In my opinion, this was not the appropriate manner in which to deal with a complaint of this nature and the outcome left the claimant at some disadvantage in becoming assimilated into the workforce. Problems arose with regard to learning skills and training etc. inevitably leading to his contract not being renewed at the end of 6 months.
I am satisfied he contributed in some way to his misfortune by not availing of the Company/Union Grievance Procedures which were in place. He has since found suitable alternative employment and I am recommending that he be paid the sum of one hundred pounds (£100) in full and final settlement of the claim."
The worker was named in the Recommendation.
The Rights Commissioner's Recommendation was appealed by both parties to the Labour Court under Section 13 (9) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1969. The Court heard the appeal on the 6th of December, 1999.
3. 1. During the first five months of the worker's employment no appraisal took place and he was not made aware of any difficulties arising from his quality of work or any other issue pertaining to his employment. He received no verbal or written warnings.
2. Following his transfer to the O.C. Suite, it was made clear to him that his fellow workers were not inclined to train him and did not want to sit with him at tea breaks etc.
3. The worker advised his supervisor of the attitude that was being taken towards him. His supervisor requested that he put his complaint in writing. The worker declined to put the complaint in writing.
4. Two weeks after his transfer the worker received an negative appraisal. He informed his supervisor of the difficulties that he was encountering and that these were adding to his problems. He requested a transfer to another area or another shift.
5. The worker was subjected to constant verbal abuse which resulted in an altercation involving a fellow worker.
6. It is the worker's contention that he was on the receiving end of systematic mis-treatment within the work environment and that he was not afforded the necessary support from management in sorting out his grievance.
7. The worker attempted to utilise the Company/Union grievance procedures appropriately in that he raised the matter with his supervisor. As he received no support or encouragement from his supervisor, he considered that he had gone as far as possible, given the tenuous nature of his relationship with the Company.
8. The decision not to extend the worker's contract was unfair in the circumstances.
4. 1. The Rights Commissioner erred in fact in finding that the claimant had been bullied on day one of his employment. The worker himself claims that his difficulties only arose on the 15th of February, 1999, when he was transferred to the O.C. suite.
2. On the 15th of February, 1999, the worker was assigned to the full range of duties of a processing operator and, in this position, became subject to the regular performance review procedure. Because of a number of concerns that his supervisor had with his performance the first review took place on the 26th of February, 1999. During that review, the following deficiencies were pointed out to him:
- despite having received the appropriate training, subsequent inspections found two tablets on two occasions in a booth cleaned by him;
- the need for more focus in relation to GMP and housekeeping was highlighted;
- the need for checking and double-checking when carrying out work tasks (e.g. the failure to obtain a second signature for critical tasks);
- a significant improvement in the area of team work.
3. A second performance review took place on the 30th of March, 1999, and again, significant deficiencies were highlighted:
- despite progress on training, which the worker had confirmed as being of a satisfactory nature, he still did not demonstrate fundamental skills which should have been second-nature at that stage (e.g. calculation errors);
- GMP and documentation errors: failure on two occasions to obtain a second signature as per standard operation procedure, over-writing documentation;
- co-operation with other employees; the worker did not get on well with his fellow employees;
- a major incident with a sampling mix-up which resulted from his lack of attention to detail had significant consequences in that 50 kgs of a high value product had to be rejected with subsequent customer service issues.
During this review, his supervisor advised him that, based on his progress to date, he could not recommend him for a permanent position.
4. The worker alleges that on his arrival in the O.C. Suite, that it had been made clear by his colleagues that they were not inclined to train him, did not want to sit with him in the canteen etc. He reported this matter to his supervisor, who requested that he put the complaint in writing. He declined.
5. The worker was advised by management that his colleagues could not refuse to train him and insisted that the training be carried out. Furthermore, management addressed the complaint raised by the worker to the individual alleged to have made the offending statement.
6. In summary, the Company's position is as follows:
a) The worker was on a fixed-term temporary contract.
b) His supervisor had problems with his work performance which had been outlined to him in his review meetings on 26th of February and 30th of March, 1999, and which are listed above.
c) Based on his performance problems, the Company decided not to renew his temporary employment contract.
d) In essence, this is not a case of unfair treatment, as the Company was entirely within its rights to end a temporary contract on its expiry date.
e) Although subject to a certain amount of ill-will on his transfer to the O.C. Suite, there is nothing to suggest that the worker was in any way harassed or bullied while working there. His suggestion, therefore, that his experiences created stress for him and contributed to his inability to meet the standards required is disingenuous.
The Company's decision not to extend the worker's temporary contract was based on his poor performance when assigned to the full duties of a process operator. In such circumstances, that decision was based on performance criteria and not, as the worker alleges, some underlying antipathy to him.
The Court has considered the submissions made in this case. The Court can see no reason to change the Rights Commissioner's Recommendation. Therefore, the Recommendation is hereby upheld.
The Court so decides.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
23rd December, 1999.______________________
Enquiries concerning this Decision should be addressed to Fran Brennan, Court Secretary.