INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
ODLUM GROUP LIMITED
(REPRESENTED BY THE IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
MARINE, PORT AND GENERAL WORKERS' UNION
Chairman: Ms Jenkinson
Employer Member: Mr McHenry
Worker Member: Mr O'Neill
1. Rationalisation plan.
2. The Company is involved in the flour and oatmeal industry and employs approximately 160 workers at four mills located at Dublin, Sallins, Portarlington and Cork. The Dublin mill employs 34 workers, including the sixteen mill operatives who are the subject of this dispute. The dispute concerns the Company's proposal regarding changes in plant, work method, job description and reducing the number of workers from 16 to 12.
A meeting was arranged on the 17th of July, 1998, at which the Company presented its proposals, and at a follow-up meeting of the 6th of August, the Unions raised a number of technical questions. The Company responded on the 13th of August, including its proposals for the weighbridge, which is one of the main concerns for the Union. While the workers would agree to some cuts in the general operative numbers, they are strongly against having the jobs of the two workers on the weighbridge job being subsumed into the administrative function.
There are three issues involved in the dispute - an increase in pay, early retirement and the weighbridge. The Unions' believe that the increase in pay could come about by way of a gainsharing of the profits from the reduction of jobs, in line with Chapter 9.15 of Partnership 2000. They are also looking for early retirement (with an ex-gratia payment) of long serving staff to facilitate the reduction in staff numbers.
The Unions claim that in January, 1999, the Company agreed to keep one of the general operatives in the weighbridge job but that later it appeared to be backtracking on this agreement. The Unions also want holiday cover to be from the general operatives grade and not the administrative staff. The Company wants a self-contained team made up of management, clerical and one general operative to operate the weighbridge.
A number of conciliation conferences with the Labour Relations Commission were held, and at one in June, 1999, a Company offer of £300 per person for changes and flexibility was rejected. At a final conciliation conference on the 21st of September, 1999, it was agreed to refer the dispute to the Labour Court, in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. A Labour Court hearing took place on the 22nd of November, 1999.
3. 1. The Unions are prepared to accept the reduction in the number of workers from 16 to 12, a drop of 25%.
2. The Unions have been prepared at all times to negotiate locally, but the Company was unwilling to do so (it referred the dispute to the Labour Relations Commission after one meeting on site). Members were not consulted about planned changes.
3. A claim for gainsharing is not inappropriate under Partnership 2000.
4. The Company is not losing money as it claims, nor are rates of pay better than its competitors.
4. 1. Flour milling must now be viewed on a European basis and the industry is suffering from over-capacity, leading to pressure on selling prices and reduced margins. Selling prices have continued to decline since 1992.
2. The mill in Dublin is in considerable need of equipment replacement. The total investment will be £5.34 million. There will also need to be changes in work practices and a reduction in numbers. Many of the new work practices were paid for in the last round of rationalisation in 1991, but have not been undertaken.
3. The reduction in numbers is to be achieved by the non-replacement of retiring workers over the next three years. No existing worker is being made redundant.
4. The Company wants a self-contained team to operate the weighbridge. The Union has ignored the team concept, and its position has made progress very difficult.
The Court has given careful consideration to the submissions of both sides. The Court has clarified that there are three core issues which remain outstanding in this dispute:-
- increase in pay for existing members,
- an early retirement package,
- the retention of the weighbridge job at general operative grade.
The Union has assured the Court that the technical issues relating to the Company's overall plan are agreed, in principle, at this point, although a review of the situation may be necessary at a later stage.
The Court is of the view that insufficient negotiations have taken place on the above three outstanding issues. Therefore, the Court is not in a position to make a definitive recommendation on them.
Accordingly, the Court recommends that these three issues should be referred back to conciliation in the expectation that further discussions should ensure that agreement will be reached between the parties. The weighbridge issue should be considered separately from the overall Company plan.
The Court would consider that this process should be complete by the end of February, 2000. If at the conclusion of the process there is an outstanding issue, it may be referred back to the Court for a definitive recommendation.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
3rd December, 1999______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Ciaran O'Neill, Court Secretary.