INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
- AND -
AMALGAMATED ENGINEERING AND ELECTRICAL UNION
MANUFACTURING, SCIENCE, FINANCE
Chairman: Ms Jenkinson
Employer Member: Mr Keogh
Worker Member: Ms Ni Mhurchu
2. The Company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Business Group Diagnostics which has its headquarters in Tarrytown, New York. It is the worldwide centre for the manufacturing of large laboratory instruments for use in hospitals and medical laboratories and employs around 270 people.
The Unions have submitted a claim for upgrading on behalf of eight workers employed as Purchase Material Inspectors (PMI Group). Prior to 1992 the production operative job was graded as Grade 4. The PMI Group was graded as Grade 7 and Grade 9 which represented a salary difference of 14% to 27%.
The Unions claim that following a major restructuring programme the grading system was changed. Instead of grading from Grade 1 to Grade 14, the Company introduced just three grades - Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3. The PMI workers are graded at Level 2. Selected employees were offered positions in the PMI Department with the proviso that they take up a study programme to obtain third level qualifications. It is claimed by the Unions that it was indicated by Management that these qualifications would lead to regrading to reflect the skill sets attained.
The Company rejected the Unions' claim and stated that the work performed by PMI employees was appropriate to their grade. It claims that some staff were asked to acquire qualifications to enable them to do the best job possible, but rejects the claim that higher qualifications would lead to an enhanced or upgraded rate of payment. The Company stated that it did not accept that there was a skill differential between the PMI workers and other Level 2 operatives.
As no agreement was possible between the parties the dispute was referred to the Labour Relations Commission. Conciliation conferences were held on the 19th of June, 1998, 12th of May, 1999 and 31st of May, 1999, but no agreement was reached. The dispute was referred to the Labour Court on the 8th of June, 1999, in accordance with Section 26 (1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. The Court investigated the dispute on the 2nd November, 1999 (the earliest date suitable to the parties).
3. 1. There is a precedent for upgrading within the Company when maintenance employees received an award for multi-skilling which was in the form of a pay extension to their salary scale.
2. Management has submitted that a higher level of duty existed for this group of PMI workers but are not prepared to remunerate them at a higher rate.
3. The employees concerned have attained third level qualifications which they were obliged to undertake. The Company should regrade these employees to Level 3 accordingly.
4. Maintenance personnel who undertook and completed an in-house course were upgraded to Level 3 pay rates.
4. 1. The Company made a "once-off" offer of £1,000 per employee to the PMI group of workers but this was rejected.
2. The need to re-skill was necessary in order to maintain competitiveness, add value and to survive.
3. In 1992, the Company underwent a major rationalisation programme in order to survive. Many of the employees had to embrace additional skills training to ensure the required competency levels were achieved.
4. The Company's business is highly technical and subject to frequent change. All of its employees are required to continuously upgrade and enhance their skills in all areas of the Company's business.
5. Concession of this claim would lead to knock-on claims for the Company.
The Court has given careful consideration to all the information presented to the Court by both sides. The eight claimants indicated to the Court that they were of the impression that promises were made to them that if the qualification was achieved the jobs would be regraded to reflect the skill sets attained. The Court is satisfied from the information before it that the promises given were promises of access to promotion. It is clear to the Court that as a result of the major
restructuring programme in 1992 it was necessary for the claimants involved to attain these qualifications in order to be able to carry out the duties of a Purchase Materials Inspector. The Court recommends that a once off lump sum of £1,500 should be paid to the claimants in recognition of the training and study programme undertaken by them.
The Court also observed that many of the people involved in this area of work have at their own instigation undertaken additional study, thereby attaining greater expertise in this area. The Court recommends that a policy should be developed for the future which involves discussions taking place between management and staff who wish to undertake extra courses of study, with a view to identifying where such qualifications may assist staff in gaining access to promotional positions in the Company.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
3rd December, 1999.______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Larry Wisely, Court Secretary.