INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 13(9), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1969
WARNER LAMBERT EXPORT LIMITED
(REPRESENTED BY THE IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
TECHNICAL, ENGINEERING AND ELECTRICAL UNION
Chairman: Ms Jenkinson
Employer Member: Mr Keogh
Worker Member: Mr O'Neill
1. Appeal of Rights Commissioner's Recommendation No. IR438/98CW concerning dispute over loss of earnings for two workers.
2. The Company is engaged in the manufacture of Pharmaceutical and Chewing Gum Base products at two plants located at Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin. It also has extensive manufacturing operations in Cork. The dispute concerns the Union's claim for compensation on behalf of two electricians for the period September, 1996 to June, 1998. It claims that the Company was in breach of the Company/Union agreement (in relation to call-outs) which provides for the attendance at the plant of a fitter and an electrician. It argues specifically in relation to this case, that an agreement existed up to September, 1996, whereby a fitter and an electrician would carry out a pump change when a change of product occurred.
The Company rejects the claim. Its position is that there was no breach of any agreement by the Company, but that a change in operational practices was discussed and agreed with the Craft Group Committee. It argues that there was no objection from the electricians at the time but subsequently they were reluctant to become involved in the new arrangement.
The matter was discussed at a Union/Management meeting on the 6th of June, 1998, at which management proposed that an electrician would attend during pump changes. This was not acceptable to the Craft Group and the matter remained unresolved until the introduction of a new House Agreement in January, 1999.
The matter was referred to a Rights Commissioner for investigation and recommendation. The Rights Commissioner's findings and recommendation are as follows:-
"If the electricians had participated in the new agreement ,then each
of them might had a few pump changes. Whatever the reasons for their
non-participation there is no justification for their claim of approximately
£8,000 each. I consider that a modest payment is appropriate in the
I recommend that the Company offers and both electricians accept the
sum of £250 each in settlement of this dispute."
The Rights Commissioner's Recommendation was appealed by the Union to the Labour Court on the 10th of August, 1999 under Section 13(9) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1969. The Labour Court heard the appeal on the 13th of December, 1999.
3. 1. An agreement exists which provides for a fitter and an electrician to attend at the plant, whether the call-out relates to a mechanical or an electrical matter. This agreement which existed prior to September, 1996 is not disputed by the Company.
2. In September, 1996 a shop steward, from another union, negotiated a deal with management to enhance terms and conditions for carrying out a pump change. This deal was negotiated without any consultation or the agreement of the electricians.
3. The two electricians concerned suffered a substantial loss of income during the period September, 1996 to the 16th of June, 1998, amounting to approximately £13,586. It is a clear case of injustice and the Court is respectfully requested to uphold the Union's case.
4. 1. There was no breach of any agreement by the Company, but rather a change in operational practices which were discussed and agreed between the Company and the Craft Group Committee. The Group's proposal was accepted and operated by the Company. There was no objection from the electricians at that time.
2. Up to 1995, the Company manufacturing requirement was for three batches of product per week from its Pharmaceutical Sterile Suite. In late 1995, it became evident from customer forecasts that output from the Suite in question would require an increase from three to five batches of product per week.
3. Prior to the increase in batches, changing of the dispensing pumps was a normal maintenance function and carried out exclusively by fitters, during normal working hours.
4. The Company proposed that the off hours pump change would be performed under existing call out arrangements. This proposal was rejected by the Craft Group, who put forward an alternative proposal which was accepted by the Company. This agreement provided for one person attending the site to perform the change. Compensation was agreed at payment of seven hours at double time with the remainder of the working day off.
5. The first pump change occurred in September, 1996. The existing call out arrangements were maintained and ran in tandem with a pump change. On occasions call-outs occurred on the same night as a pump change.
6. The arrangement was queried by the shop steward representing electricians. Following further local discussion, it was agreed that the two electricians in the Pharmaceutical plant would be included in the pump change rota following appropriate training.
7. The Company has acted fairly and reasonably in respect of the electricians and cannot accept that the Union has any grounds to claim loss of earnings. In the circumstances the Court is requested to uphold the Rights Commissioner's Recommendation.
The Court has considered the submissions of the parties and decides to uphold the Rights Commissioner's Recommendation with a variation on the terms of compensation. The Court recommends that the sum of £250 as recommended by the Rights Commissioner should be amended to £1,000 and should be paid to the claimants involved.
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.