INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
BISSELL IRELAND LIMITED
(REPRESENTED BY THE IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
AMALGAMATED TRANSPORT AND GENERAL WORKERS' UNION
Chairman: Mr Flood
Employer Member: Mr McHenry
Worker Member: Ms Ni Mhurchu
1. Removal of shift.
2. Bissell Ireland, a USA company with headquarters in Grand Rapids, Michigan, established its operations in Drogheda in 1975. Since then the Company has employed an average of 200 employees in the manufacture of a range of floor cleaning appliances, including carpet sweepers, shampooers both manual and electrical, and vacuum cleaners.
The dispute concerns a Company requirement to reduce levels of shift work at its plant "due to various operational difficulties". The 1998 Company/Union Agreement addresses the subject of involuntary step down from shift to day work and the Company sought to apply the relevant provisions (Clause 14). The Unions claim that a compensation arrangement concerning step down from shift and dating back to 1990 should be applied. The Company states that the 1990 arrangement applied specifically to four named employees who had been on long-term shift work. The matter was the subject of a conciliation conference under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission, at which agreement was not reached. The dispute was referred to the Labour Court, on the 18th of August, 1998, in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. The Court carried out its investigation, in Dundalk, on the 20th of January, 1999, the earliest date suitable to all parties.
3. 1. The document issued in December, 1990 was agreed between the Company and the shop stewards and supersedes the 1988 agreement.
2. Accordingly, those being stepped down from shift to day work should receive compensation amounting to 50% of the average shift premium, plus a lump sum of £400.
4. 1. The Company is seeking that the Court uphold the terms of Clause 14 of the Company/Union Agreement regarding step down from shift for the following reasons:-
(a) the Company is in an increasingly difficult trading position for which part of the solution has to be the reduction of labour costs and, specifically, the removal of shift work;
(b) the volume of work is not there to justify shift work at the present time;
(c) the Company has recently lost production of the "bail" component to its counterpart in the USA and this has further compounded the Company's difficulties;
(d) the Company is prepared to invest in capital equipment to assist production on day work - specifically the installation of a gas-fired oven to replace the present electrical oven;
(e) other decisions in respect of investment in the Drogheda plant are being held in abeyance until the outcome of this issue is known. If the Company does not achieve the orderly step down from shift work in the very near future, in line with the terms of the Company/Union Agreement, there will be negative implications regarding the future viability of the Drogheda plant;
(f) the 1990 arrangement involved four employees only and was agreed at local level without reference to the usual procedures. It was a once-off arrangement which has to be seen in context. The Company cannot afford to pay an element of shift premium across the board when shift is not actually being worked.
The Court considered the written and oral submissions and the documentation in relation to the 1988 and 1990 agreements.
The Court is satisfied that the appropriate payment for standing down shift is that in the comprehensive Agreement of 1988.
The Court accepts that the 1990 agreement arrived at locally was for a number for employees, named in the note and was reached to cover specific circumstances with those employees.
The Court recommends that the parties have a clear documented agreement for the future, on the levels of responsibility and authority of people negotiating on behalf of the Company and the Unions.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
19th February, 1999______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Michael Keegan, Court Secretary.