INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
BAXTER HEALTHCARE SA
(REPRESENTED BY THE IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Mr Flood
Employer Member: Mr McHenry
Worker Member: Ms Ni Mhurchu
1. Pension and Sick Pay, 2. Regrading and 3. Partnership Forum.
2. The Company is a leading manufacturer of healthcare products throughout the world. The claim is on behalf of approximately 850 workers in the Castlebar and Swinford plants. Castelbar supplies European and Nordic countries, and Swinford supplies Europe, the US and Japan.
Proposals for a comprehensive agreement with the Company were outlined in a letter from the Unions in July, 1997, and discussions on these began in May, 1998. There were initially fifteen items, but after the dispute was referred to the Labour Relations Commission, these were reduced to six items at a conciliation conference on the 15th of December, 1998, as follows:-
1. improvement in pension scheme
2. improvement in sick pay scheme
3. utility grades - new duties
4. quality control - new duties
5. profit sharing/gainsharing
6. Clause 4 of Partnership 2000 i.e. local 2%. (Management agreed at the conciliation conference to pay the 2%.)
At a further conciliation conference on the 28th of April, the Industrial Relations Officer of the Labour Relations Commission had reduced the claim to the three broad items before the Court, i.e., pension and sick pay, pay/regrading and the partnership forum (full details of the Unions' claims were supplied to the Court).
Although there appeared to be considerable agreement on the issues of pension/sick pay and the partnership forum, there was no agreement on pay/regrading, which concerned utility/quality control work in Swinford. The Industrial Relations Officer's proposal that the Company pay one extra week's bonus at Christmas, 1999, if the pay/regrading claim was withdrawn until the end of Partnership 2000, was rejected by the Swinford branch. The workers requested the involvement of an agreed third party to assess the merits of their claim. At a further conciliation conference of the 29th of July, 1999, it was agreed that all the proposals of the Industrial Relations Officer of the 28th of April would be referred to the Court in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. A Labour Court hearing took place on the 19th of November, 1999.
3. 1. The utility and quality control job classifications have changed dramatically for the workers over the last number of years, (a list of the duties was supplied to the Court). They are willing to have their work assessed by a third party.
2. It was felt that the Industrial Relations Officer's proposal regarding the extra week's bonus at Christmas was proper to the members involved in the original claim, i.e. Swinford branch, and it was put to a secret ballot by these operators only. The proposal was rejected.
3. The Company is in a strong financial position. There have been major cost savings to the Company because of its reduction in staff, and this gain should be shared among the members.
4. The Union is committed to a partnership approach which would provide for a common interest with regard to competitiveness, security and prosperity for all in the Company. The issue should be linked to an agreed payment, and could be developed further under the heading of profit sharing/gainsharing. The Union would welcome the assistance of an appropriate party to achieve this goal.
4. 1. A wide-ranging comprehensive package was negotiated under the terms of Partnership 2000. The Company believed that a fair deal had been agreed with the Union. However, no ballot was conducted except on the single issue of pay/upgrading, and this only by the Swinford workers. Labour Court Recommendation No. 11656 recommended that for major negotiations in the Company, an aggregate ballot from both sites (Castlebar and Swinford) would decide the final outcome of the issues in dispute.
2. The main issue in dispute - additional pay for utility and quality control inspections at Swinford - has been before the Court on a number of occasions in the past. In general, the Court has upheld the Company's position that claims of this nature would disrupt the current flat pay structure, which has ensured equity over many years.
3. The Company has consistently defended its position on claims for third parties to conduct job evaluation exercises in the Company. The processes and products are unique to the Company. Conceding claims for differentials results in a minority being rewarded to the detriment of the majority, and would lead to repercussive claims. The Company's pay, conditions and terms of employment are generous.
The Court, having considered the written and oral submissions, recommends that the proposals as outlined by the Industrial Relations Officer at the Labour Relations Commission be accepted by the employees.
How employees are rewarded for taking on significant extra duties should form the basis of future discussions between the Company and the Union. These discussions could include gainsharing and partnership.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
3rd December, 1999______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Ciaran O'Neill, Court Secretary.