INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
(REPRESENTED BY THE IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Mr Duffy
Employer Member: Mr Pierce
Worker Member: Mr Rorke
1. Representation of Union issues by four shop stewards.
2. The Company is a wholly owned subsidiary of an American company which designs and manufactures electronic controllers. It employs 147 people at its plant in Ringaskiddy, Co. Cork. The Union states that it represents 46 employees, although only 35 pay Union subscriptions by payroll deduction. Since 1982, the Company has recognised one SIPTU shop steward and one NEETU shop steward. However, the NEETU has not been represented since 1992.
On the 12th of November, 1998, SIPTU informed the Company that the workers had elected four representatives in place of one shop steward. The Company was not prepared to recognise four representatives and the issue was referred to the Labour Relations Commission. A conciliation conference was held on the 26th of May, 1999. The Industrial Relations Officer put forward a proposal that the Company would recognise one shop steward and one deputy shop steward. The Company accepted the proposal but it was rejected by the workers.
The dispute was then referred to the Labour Court on the 3rd of September, 1999, in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. The Court investigated the dispute on the 8th of December, 1999.
3. 1. The four elected representatives would represent the main areas of the plant, namely stores, floor area, floor and line, and the BMC area. This would be beneficial to the Company, as issues could be discussed with a representative who would be familiar with a particular area.
2. The election of four representatives would prevent a singular named person from coming under any pressure from the Company. Employees are reluctant to be seen as singular representatives in case of repercussions.
3. The Company/Union Agreement makes reference to both "shop steward" and "shop stewards". It does not specify that only one shop steward will be recognised.
4. The attendance of all four representatives at meetings would be confined to meetings concerning general issues or disciplinary/grievance matters. Production would not be interfered with as meetings are often scheduled after normal finishing time.
4. 1. The existing representative levels have been in place for 17 years. One shop steward is sufficient representation for 35 SIPTU members.
2. There has been no change of circumstances or numbers of employees which would justify increasing the number of shop stewards.
3. The Union did not request a meeting to discuss the level of representation with the Company. The Company/Union Agreement provides for representation as agreed, and the existing agreement as per custom and practice, is for one representative.
4. The Industrial Relations Officer's proposal of one shop steward and one deputy shop steward was reasonable. The Company was prepared to accept this compromise to resolve the matter.
In considering this case the Court has had regard to the Code of Practice on Duties and Responsibilities of Employee Representatives and the Protection and Facilities to be afforded to them by their Employer, made under Section 42 of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990.
This Code of Practice provides, at paragraph 5, that the number of employee representatives should relate to the number of employees and the structure of trade union organisation within the undertaking. The Code also provides comprehensive measures for the protection of employee representatives in employment. Those measures if adopted would, in the Court's view, adequately address the concerns on which the Union has, in part, based its claim for additional representation.
Having considered all of the circumstances surrounding this case the Court believes that the present dispute may be symptomatic of a regrettable deterioration in the hitherto good industrial relations environment within the Company. This is a matter which the parties should address as a priority.
The Court recommends that the parties should request the Advisory Service of the Labour Relations Commission to assist them in identifying and addressing any negative industrial relations trends which may be developing within the Company/Union relationship. The Advisory Service should also be asked to assist in formulating an agreement on employee representation which incorporates the provisions of the Code of Practice referred to above.
While the Court considers that the ratio of one shop steward and a deputy is reasonable having regard to the number of Union members in the employment, the parties should nonetheless discuss this matter further in the context of implementing the Code of Practice. Subject to any change which might subsequently be agreed the Union should accept the Company's offer to facilitate one shop steward and one deputy.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
23rd December, 1999______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Dympna Greene, Court Secretary.