INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
(REPRESENTED BY IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Mr Duffy
Employer Member: Mr McHenry
Worker Member: Mr O'Neill
1. (a) P2000 Local Bargaining
(b) Pension Scheme
(c) Rights Commissioner Case IR 422/98
(d) Procedural Negotiations Of 1988 Productivity Agreement.
2. Fulflex International has been operating in Limerick for over 28 years. It manufactures rubber elastic products, primarily for the European market and employs approximately 150 people.
The Company states that the current dispute revolves around the Union's refusal to attend meetings at local level with one particular member of the Company's management team. The Company is unable at present to process outstanding issues such as P2000, Pension
Scheme etc., until the Union sits down with management and discusses the various issues. The Union claims that this particular member of the management team misled the Union in relation to the Company's position regarding payment of Phase 2 of Partnership 2000 which was due on the 1st of March, 1998 and which is still outstanding. At present there is a lack of trust in the management of the Company.
The Company rejects the Union's claim and states that Phase 2 of P2000 will be paid when negotiations take place. It also claims that all the other outstanding issues will be dealt with when proper and meaningful negotiations take place.
As no agreement was possible between the parties the dispute was referred to the Conciliation Service of the Labour Relations Commission. A conciliation conference was held on the 29th of September, 1998, but no agreement was reached. The dispute was referred to the Labour Court on the 28th of October, 1998, under Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. The Court investigated the dispute on the 15th of December, 1998, the earliest date suitable to the parties.
3.1 The Company has failed to implement the 2% local bargaining increase due under Clause 2 (iii) of Partnership 2000.
3.2 The Company is a profitable one and should pay this increase from the 1st of September, 1998
3.3 The Company is in contravention of the spirit of Partnership 2000 by seeking cost offsetting measures.
4.1 The Company is prepared to pay the 2% local bargaining increase due under Partnership 2000 when proper negotiations take place.
4.2 Management has never stated that Phase 2 of Partnership 2000 would not be paid.
4.3 The Company believe that the entire dispute is founded on a misunderstanding on the part of S.I.P.T.U.
5.1 At the Labour Relations Commission meeting on the 23rd of June, 1998, the Company gave a commitment to enter negotiations on the pension issue. The Company has reneged on this.
5.2 This is a long running issue which management has failed to act upon.
6.1 The Union was advised on the 18th of August, 1998, that it had received the cost information it required in relation to the pension indexation claim.
6.2 The Company was prepared to make an offer on this claim but the Union refused to meet management to discuss it.
6.3 The Company has at all times tried to resolve this dispute in a fair and equitable way.
RIGHTS COMMISSIONER'S RECOMMENDATION IR 422/98
7.1 Following the Rights Commissioner's recommendation the Union made an offer to meet the Company but the offer was not taken up.
7.2 At a meeting on the 27th of August, 1998, the Union put forward a formula to resolve this dispute which management rejected.
8.1 The Company accepted the Rights Commissioner's recommendation.
8.2 The Rights Commissioner found that the Union's position was inappropriate and that the matter could only be solved by the Union agreeing unconditionally to withdraw any restrictions imposed on local level meetings with named management personnel.
8.3 The Company has agreed to the Labour Relations Commission proposal to revisit the Labour Relations Commission Audit document on the conduct of industrial relations at the plant and to work towards a stronger sustainable relationship with the Union.
1988 PRODUCTIVITY AGREEMENT
9.1 The 1988 Agreement arose out of a rationalisation programme necessitated by major changes in the marketplace.
9.2 The Agreement was reached on the basis that management was open and transparent in involving the Union in a comprehensive consultation process.
9.3 The Union members accepted new production output and manning levels. This was a significant rationalisation programme.
9.4 The 1988 Agreement was part of a retrospective plan which was necessitated by market conditions at that time. The Union cannot accept that this agreement is valid today.
10.1 A return to normal business would allow the Company to consider a resumption of an adjourned Labour Relations Commission conference on the current Productivity Agreement.
10.2 The Company must remain competitive or it will lose market share to its competitors.
10.3 There is increasing low cost competition from the Far East with consequent downward pressure in prices.
10.4 The Union will have to recognise the globalisation of the marketplace and its impact on local enterprise.
The central and overriding issue before the Court in this dispute concerns the unwillingness of the union to engage in normal industrial relations dialogue with a paticular member of the company management present. This issue has been investigated by a Rights Commissioner and while his Recommendation was accepted by management it has been rejected by the Union. That Recommendation has not been appealed, but its non implementation has been referred to the Court by the Company, constituting as it does the central issue which continues to prevent the resolution of the other matters in dispute. For its part, the Union have argued that a modified approach to that recommended by the Rights Commissioner should be adopted to the resolution of this issue.
The Court wishes to draw the attention of the parties to the provisions of Section 13 (10) of the Industrial Relations Act 1969, which expressly precludes the Court from investigating a Trade Dispute in relation to which a Rights Commissioner has made a recommendation, except by way of appeal. Since neither party has appealed the Rights Commissioner's Recommendation the Court cannot conduct a fresh investigation into the subject matter of this Recommendation.
In the Court's view the Rights Commissioner's Recommendation is based on the well established principle of industrial relations that one party cannot exercise a veto over who can represent another party in negotiations. This is a principle which the Court would fully endorse.
Nonetheless, the union members are continuing in their refusal to negotiate with the manager concerned and in consequence any form of normal negotiation or discussion on industrial matters has become impossible. This in the Court's view is the core issue in this dispute from which the other matters referred for investigation have inevitably flowed. The priority for both parties must be to resolve this overriding problem and to restore a constructive working relationship between them. The Court believes that if this were to be achieved the other issues in dispute would be resolved between the parties in normal negotiation. For that reason, it would be neither helpful or appropriate to make a recommendation in relation to those issues at this time.
The Court believes that the parties could benefit from the assistance of an outside facilitator who would work with both sides in seeking to restore a normal working relationship based on trust and mutual respect. It recommends that the parties should, by 31st January 1999, appoint an appropriate person for this purpose.
Following a period of three months from the appointment of such a person (i.e. 30th April1999) any of the matters referred to the Court which remain unresolved may be referred back to the Court for final adjudication.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
11th January, 1999.______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Larry Wisely, Court Secretary.