INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
VAN DEN BERGH FOODS
(REPRESENTED BY THE IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Ms Jenkinson
Employer Member: Mr Pierce
Worker Member: Mr O'Neill
2. Van den Bergh Foods is a food manufacturing and distribution Company and is part of the Unilever group. The Company employs 200 full-time workers and approximately 150 temporary workers.
The Union is in dispute with the Company in relation to the seniority position of two groups of part-time workers. One group (5) worked the 8.00 a.m. to 2.00 p.m. shift. The Union claims that following an agreement in 1988 these workers were to be recalled after the 5th year as full-time temporary staff. The workers now claim that their place on the seniority list should be much higher.
The other group of workers (4) in dispute operated on the 4.30 p.m. to 10.00 p.m. shift and recieved the equal pay rate. The Company refers to trained operatives as equal pay workers because in the past men were the main recipients. Their shift was changed to 12.15 p.m. to 6.00 p.m. and as a result they lost their equal pay rate. The Union claims that these workers were slotted in as 4th years, despite their long service with the Company.
This group of workers are seeking: (1) seniority and (2) equal pay rate. They claim that other women on the same shift receive the equal pay rate when acting as operatives.
The Company states that the first group of workers (5) worked either 8.00 a.m. to 2.00 p.m. or 1.00 p.m. to 5.00 p.m. and that these workers were called in at the Company's discretion for seasonal work. In 1988, an agreement was reached regarding their eligibility for recall and overtime. This agreement gave them a notional position on the seniority list. They retained this position for recall and overtime, but not for permanency as they were only interested in part-time work.
In 1995, the Company and the Union concluded an agreement on a New Operating System which introduced new hours of work and continuous machine running i.e. working through lunch time. The afternoon part-time hours switched to 12.15 p.m. to 6.00 p.m. The five employees concerned are currently 12th and 16th inclusive on the seniority list. The Company rejects the Union's claim that these workers should be higher up the list for seasonal employees.
The second group of workers (4) worked part-time from 4.30 p.m. to 10.00 p.m. They were called upon to work for periods during high season and supplemented the full-time workers when overtime was being worked up to 10.00 p.m. However, they were never part of any seniority list.
As part of the 1995 Company/Union agreement this group of workers were assigned a position on the seniority list. However, these workers subsequently objected to this part of the agreement on the basis that they were being called upon less frequently to perform equal pay work. Currently equal pay work pays £5.86 per hour while the standard rate pays £4.76 per hour.
The Company rejects the claim that (1) these workers should be higher up on the seniority list and (2) that they should be compensated for the loss of the equal pay rate.
As no agreement was possible between the parties the dispute was referred to the Labour Relations Commission. A conciliation conference was held on the 12th of April, 1999 but no agreement was reached. The dispute was referred to the Labour Court on the 4th of October, 1999 under Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. The Court investigated the dispute on the 28th of October, 1999.
3. 1. The workers concerned (5) should have their seniority position reviewed given their length of service with the Company. Compensation for consequential losses should also be paid.
2. The 1988 agreement disadvantaged these particular workers in relation to their position on the seniority list.
3. The workers (4) in dispute in relation to equal pay should have this restored and be compensated accordingly.
4. Many of the workers concerned have long service with the Company and the issue of seniority is very important to them.
4. 1. The 1995 agreement put the claimants formally on the seniority list for the first time and their opportunity for permanency was accordingly improved.
2. The seniority list is well established and to alter it now would cause internal difficulties and undo the Company/Union agreement of 1995.
3. The group of workers (4) who operated the 4.30 p.m. to 10.00 p.m. shift were never part of any seniority list.
4. As part of the New Operating System agreed in 1995 this group of workers (4.30 p.m. to 10.00 p.m.) were assigned a position on the seniority list which was agreed to by the Union.
5. Existing agreements determine that equal pay work is offered to seasonal employees on the basis of seniority.
The Court has given full consideration to both the oral and written submissions of the parties and is of the view that the issues before the Court relating to the seniority lists were agreed by the 1988 and 1995 agreements. These agreements were freely entered into and supported by the majority of the workforce and are still valid. Accordingly, the Court sees no basis on which to alter the senority relativities agreed.
The Court notes that a separate equal pay case is before the Equality Commission at present.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
8th December, 1999______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Larry Wisely, Court Secretary.