INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
FORT JAMES LIMITED (FORMERLY JAMONT IRELAND LIMITED)
(REPRESENTED BY THE IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Mr Flood
Employer Member: Mr Pierce
Worker Member: Mr Rorke
1. Rates of pay.
2. The Company employs approximately 160 workers and is engaged in the production of facial, toilet, and kitchen papers and aluminium foil.
The issue in dispute is the Union's claim for a pay increase on behalf of two general operatives. The Union claims that, following a 1992 plant agreement which abolished pay anomalies, it was agreed that the three general operatives on the facial/mansize lines would be remunerated at the same rate of pay. They were paid at the Grade E rate. In 1997 the Union discovered that one of the three operatives had been upgraded in 1994 and was paid at the Grade F rate. The Union then submitted a claim on behalf of the two other operatives for an increase to the Grade F rate with effect from 1994.
The issue was the subject of a conciliation conference under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission on the 15th of June, 1998. As agreement was not possible, the issue was referred to the Labour Court in November, 1998, in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. The Court investigated the dispute on the 2nd of February, 1999, the earliest date suitable to the parties.
3. 1. One of the main provisions of the 1992 plant agreement was a buyout of all anomalies (including shift rates) and an agreement that no further anomalies would be introduced in the future.
2. All three operatives carried out the same duties, yet in 1994 the Company secretly increased one operative's wages to the Grade F rate without informing the Union or the other operatives.
3. In 1995/1996 both claimants were paid at the Grade F rate for a number of months. Following complaints from other employees, senior management pressurised the claimants to sell the Grade F rate back to the Company. They would not have done so if they had known that the third operative was receiving and retaining the Grade F rate.
4. One of the claimants was upgraded to Grade F in May, 1998. However, as he has been carrying out the same duties as the other operative on Grade F, his upgrading should be backdated to 1994. The other claimant, although now appointed to a yard job, was given an undertaking that his pay would remain the same as that of the first claimant. He, therefore, should also be upgraded from 1994.
4. 1. The three general operatives who worked on the facial/mansize lines in 1994 were remunerated at the Grade E rate. One of the operatives was upgraded to Grade F when he commenced training other employees who were on the Grade F rate. He still retains the Grade F rate, although the Company has recently discussed a buyout of the rate.
2. One claimant was upgraded to Grade F in May, 1998, on the foot of new responsibilities. There is no justification for an earlier upgrade. The second claimant was given a specially created yard job when he refused to do shift work. He was advised that he would retain his Grade E rate of pay, which is in excess of the worth of the position. The Company disputes that any commitment was given to link his pay with that of another employee.
3. Both of the claimants were erroneously upgraded to Grade F in 1995. The employees at middle management level who were responsible for this were dismissed by the Company. Both claimants subsequently sold the upgrades back to the Company. They have no right to now seek the return of the upgrades and to claim retrospection.
There appears to be a history of local and individual agreements negotiated between individual managers and employees, many without the knowledge of the principals on the Company or Union side.
This case before the Court arises from one such case where a promotion was given, the individual concerned sworn to secrecy, and the justification is hard to quantify.
The Company's action in trying subsequently to buy out this upgrading from the individual concerned, despite arguing that his promotion was justified, makes the situation more difficult to accept.
The Court is of the view that had the upgrading in 1994 of the individual mentioned been known at the time of buying out the claimants' grade, the negotiations would have been significantly more difficult.
Accepting that the Company is trying to normalise the procedures in the Company, and that one claimant has been upgraded since, the Court, taking into account all of the information supplied, recommends that the Company pay the individual who now has been promoted to F Grade, £400 and the other claimant £800 in full and final settlement of this claim.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
12th February, 1999______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Dympna Greene, Court Secretary.