INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
CROWN EQUIPMENT LIMITED
(REPRESENTED BY IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
AMALGAMATED ENGINEERING AND ELECTRICAL UNION
Chairman: Ms Jenkinson
Employer Member: Mr Keogh
Worker Member: Mr O'Neill
1. Dispute concerning:
(1) Temporary Workers Agreement.
(2) Loss Of Earnings-Safety Issue.
(3) Welders Grading.
2. The Company is a subsidiary of a multi-national corporation which manufactures forklift trucks and pallet lifting equipment. It employs 300 workers.
Claim 1. Temporary Worker's Agreement
The Union claims that there is an agreement in place in the Company which provides for a complement of 237 permanent full time workers. Management contend that the Company never agreed to 237 as a baseline and have accepted this number while the issue is in dispute. It states that manning levels should reflect the level of business and that no baseline is relevant.
Claim 2. Loss of Earnings - Safety
The Union claims that difficulties had arisen on the pallet truck assembly line which related to safety issues and that workers had concerns in the area which were not properly addressed. This situation resulted in a work stoppage on the 25th June, 1998. Following an inspection by the Health & Safety Authority which identified certain difficulties with the safety of the line, the Company rectified the problems and work recommenced the following day. The Union subsequently submitted a claim for loss of earnings for nine hours. Management rejected the claim stating that the work stoppage was not a safety issue related one.
Claim 3. Welders' Grading
The Union's claim is for the upgrading of 9 welders from Grade 4 to Grade 5. Currently there are 7 workers on Grade 5 and 9 on Grade 4. The Union claims that the workers concerned do the same work as those on Grade 5. They have long experience, skills enhancement and flexibility and therefore are entitled to the Grade 5 pay rate.
The claims were referred to the Labour Relations Commission and conciliation conferences were held in June and October, 1998. Agreement was not reached and the dispute was referred to the Labour Court by the Labour Relations Commission on the 18th November, 1998. A Court hearing was held on the 28th of January, 1999.
1. This issue was the subject of a Labour Court Recommendation (LCR 15670). In LCR 15670 the Court recommended
"The Court is satisfied that the Company's requirement for a Temporary Workers Agreement is valid. The Court accordingly recommends that the Union and Company meet to negotiate an agreement which will include when and at what level and under what terms and conditions temporary workers can be recruited and let go."
A temporary Workers' Agreement is in existence since 1984 which has a base line figure for permanent workers. This will remain in force until a new agreement is accepted.
2. If the Union is to enter into a new agreement with the Company that agreement must contain a base line figure which the Union sees as a positive position in safeguarding jobs.
3. The Union has entered into discussions with the Company to consider the Company's proposal for a new temporary workers agreement. But negotiations were not successful.
1. The Court (in LCR15670) was satisfied that the Company requirement for temporary workers was valid. The Court recommended that the parties negotiate an agreement on temporary workers. At local level and conciliation conferences this has not been successfully concluded.
2. The Company reiterates its argument in relation to the need for a temporary workers' agreement without a "Base Line" figure of 237 permanent direct workers. It cannot sustain this number. It needs the flexibility either to reduce its workforce either permanent or temporary.
3. The Union is using the figure of 237 as a benchmark which in the event of the permanent work force falling below that figure, the Company must declare a voluntary redundancy situation and allow for voluntary redundancies regardless of the prevailing circumstances at the time. The Company cannot entertain such a situation. It has never implemented a rationalisation or redundancy programme to date and does not intend to provide one in the future.
1. Since the introduction of this assembly line it has had ongoing problems. Most as a result of bad management practices. The issue is clearly one of safety and bad practice. Representation has been made on numerous occasions regarding the build up of pallet truck frames on the morning assembly line, due in the main to bad co-ordination between the powder paint coating section and the assembly section. Representations were made on several occasions regarding these safety issues and were not acted on appropriately at any stage when the moving line was stopped for whatever reason, supervisors would ensure it was re-started without checking out the reason for the stoppage in the first place.
2. The work stoppage of 25th June, 1998, resulted from the supervisor's action in continually restarting the line without checking out the reason the line was stopped on each occasion. This is a breach of safety regulations. Due to a build up of complete frustration on the workers' part, the stoppage continued until 9.00 a.m. the following morning.
3. It is incumbent on the employer to provide a safe and healthy workplace and to ensure that the physical environment of the place of work is adequate. Management failed to provide a safe and healthy environment to work in on this assembly line, therefore the workers should be paid for nine hours.
1. The Company does not accept that the work stoppage arose as a result of the health and safety issue. The work stoppage was an unofficial one involving 19 workers. The background that led to the stoppage was a pay dispute (details to the Court). The employees' real problem lay with the supervisor who was encouraging the workers to get the required production.
2. Regular Health and Safety meetings were held with the workers. None of the points listed in the Health and Safety Authority's letter of 29th of June, 1998, were raised. The assembly line was in operation for twenty months without any significant safety issue being raised by the workers.
3. The supervisor of the line, on the date of the stoppage, has stated that the workers concerned refused to give him a reason for the stoppage when requested by him on two occasions.
1. It was discovered that 7 welders were given Grade 5 rate of pay without having to go through a Job Evaluation Scheme. The Union requested that welders on Grade 4 be given further training in order that they might achieve Grade 5. This was refused by Management.
2. The Grade 4 welders adopted a very flexible approach to their work and afforded full co-operation on various work practices. Their chargehand recommended that they be placed on the Grade 5 rate. It was indicated to them by a Senior Manager that they would be given Grade 5 rate if there were no repercussive claims
3. The Union has no faith in the Job Evaluation Scheme because it is ineffective.
4. The 7 welders who achieved Grade 5 did so simply by putting their case to Management without any reference to the Job Evaluation Scheme. The work content of those seven employees is exactly the same as that of the other 9 who are claiming the Grade 5 rate of pay.
1. There is an agreed Job Evaluation Scheme in place. This is the route by which an upgrading claim should be processed.
At the introduction of the agreed Job Evaluation Scheme (1987) there was a significant requirement for non-standard attachments to the fork trucks which had to be welded without the benefit of "fixturing" and 3 welders were evaluated at Grade 5 on this work because of the skills required.
Subsequently, on the introduction of "stock pickers" (type of truck) which required welding, it was agreed between the Union and Management that this welding would demand Grade 5 skills. 6 welders were therefore, upgraded accordingly.
Since then, the requirement for this work diminished and some welders have in effect retained their old rate and grade on a "red-circle" basis even though they no longer use the skills required for Grade 5. If they were measured in today's terms under the agreed Job Evaluation Scheme, they would come out at Grade 4.
The Company would argue against this claim on its merits and also on the grounds that it would be a cost increasing claim prohibited under the national pay agreement and furthermore, that it would give rise to consequential claims across the plant. It would also have the effect of undermining the Job Evaluation Scheme.
The Court gave serious consideration to both the written and oral presentations on the three claims before the Court, and recommends as follows:
(a)Temporary Workers Agreement
The Court notes that this issue had been before the Court previously and that clarification of the recommendation was given to the parties in respect of it. The Union did not submit any new information on this issue at this hearing but reiterated their strong concern about the need to have a baseline figure. The Court is of the view that to impose a baseline figure, thereby giving a guarantee to employ a certain number of employees into the future, is to expect too much of any company. The Court is satisfied that the recommendation of the Labour Court in LCR15670 is the appropriate method of resolving this dispute. The parties should nowmeet to negotiate an agreement which will include when and at what level and under what terms and conditions temporary workers can be recruited and let go.The Court recommends that the parties should seek the assistance of a member of the Labour Relations Commission acting as an independent chair in these discussions. The Court notes that some progress on such an agreement has already been made, and every effort should be made to conclude these discussions without further delay.
(b)Loss of Earnings - Safety Issue
The Court notes that the loss of pay arose from a stoppage of work relating to the concerns of the claimants regarding safety matters. While safety concerns are obviously extremely important and must be addressed, this must be done in accordance with normal procedures, which in this case were not carried out. The decision to stop work was unoffical and hasty. Management were not given a proper opportunity to address the concerns of staff. The Court notes the steps taken by management following the HSA's Health and Safety Inspector recommendations. The Court does not recommend a payment in respect of the loss of earnings claims. The Court suggests that in order to avoid a repeat of such an incident, that every effort should be made through the safety committee to ensure the concerns of staff are heard and safety matters properly addressed and acted upon as quickly as possible.
The claim relates to a situation which arose as a result of the Company's need to have specialist skills available to them. As these skills have not been used for sometime, a situation has arisen whereby certain workers have retained a higher grade rate on a red circling basis even though they are doing the same work as all other welders in the Company at present. The Court is satisfied that where red circling is in existence it should not bestow a higher rate to all those doing the same job but is a unique situation peculiar to certain individuals. Therefore, the Court does not recommend concession of the Union's claim. TheJob Evaluation Committee should be reactivated and both sides should agree to an independent chairperson with a view to accessing such claims for the future.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
17th February, 1999.______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Tom O'Dea, Court Secretary.