INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 13(9), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1969
P & O EUROPEAN FERRIES
- AND -
AMALGAMATED TRANSPORT AND GENERAL WORKERS' UNION
Chairman: Mr Duffy
Employer Member: Mr Pierce
Worker Member: Mr O'Neill
1. Appeal against the Rights Commissioner's Recommendation No. 669/98CW, concerning alleged harassment and victimisation of a worker.
2. P & O European Ferries Limited operate a Roll On/Roll Off service at Dublin Port. The worker concerned commenced employment with the Company as a road driver in October, 1994 and was subsequently appointed to the position of terminal operator in November, 1994.
The dispute concerns the worker's claim that he has been harassed and victimised by Management as a result of a number of incidents. He argues that the incidents which related to an accident involving a mooring and to his refusal to drive a defective truck were badly handled by Management and used to deny him promotion to a panel for relief foreman. Management rejects the claim. The matter was referred to a Rights Commissioner for investigation and recommendation. The Rights Commissioner's findings and recommendation are as follows:
"Based on the evidence before me, I am not satisfied that there is any basis for the allegations made by the worker regarding harassment and victimisation. Further, I have noted the Company's comments that, no matter how he may have perceived things in the past, the worker should not feel under any duress in working for the Company and that both sides should commit themselves to working together in a co-operative and positive manner for the future.
However, I would have to find fault with the Company's approach to the question of the defective tug. The worker suffered a loss of earnings arising from his subsequent absence from work; in the circumstances, I am recommending that the Company make good this loss and make a further small payment as a gesture of goodwill and in recognition of the stress suffered by the worker as a result of this incident.
I therefore recommend that the parties should commit themselves to a positive and co-operative working relationship for the future, and that, for the reasons outlined above, P & O European Ferries should offer, and that the ATGWU and the worker should accept, a once-off lump sum of £350, this payment to be without precedent and to be in full and final settlement of this dispute."
The Rights Commissioner's recommendation was appealed by the Union to the Labour Court on the 18th of February, 1999, under Section 13(9) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1969. The Court heard the appeal on the 31st of May, 1999.
1. The worker is concerned at the way the Company handled the investigation into the mooring incident. It did not take all of the factors into consideration, in particular the question of the quality of lighting in the area at the time. As a result of this investigation the worker suffered stress and anxiety.
2. On the 6th of February, 1998, the worker refused to drive a tug which he viewed unfit to drive due to defects which he had reported the previous day and none of which had been attended to. Following a lengthy disagreement with Management, the worker felt intimidated, harassed and victimised.
3. The worker is of the view that he has been treated differently to other employees and that he was deliberately refused promotion to the relief foreman position because of Management's attitude towards him.
4. The worker is dissatisfied with the Rights Commissioner's recommendation on the basis that the recommendation is derisory in respect of compensation. He is seeking substantial compensation due to the humiliation, harassment, victimisation and stress which he suffered.
1. At no stage has the worker been the subject of harassment, victimisation and discrimination on the part of this Company. Throughout its dealings with the worker, the Company has been reasonable and sensitive. One common thread which runs through all the correspondence to the worker, including his original probationary report, is the need to learn from his experiences and to concentrate on the job in hand in a constructive and positive manner. Any disciplinary action taken has been justified by the circumstances surrounding the incidents in which the worker was involved.
2. With regard to the incident concerning the defects on tug no. 79, it is clear that those defects could have been rectified within a short period of time as evidenced in the report on the matter. At no point during this incident was the worker given a direct instruction to operate the tug. Management sought to reason with the worker in respect of the state of the tug and its road worthiness or otherwise.
3. The position of foreman and relief foreman is very responsible. Very often the foreman or the relief foreman is the ultimate person responsible for the operation of the terminal in the absence of other personnel. It is therefore vital, that the person fulfilling this role meets certain criteria. It is the Company's view that the worker does not meet this criteria at this stage and it is for this reason that he failed in his application to be promoted to relief foreman.
4. The Court is requested to uphold the Rights Commissioner's recommendation on the basis that the Company has, at every stage, behaved in a reasonable manner and balanced way toward the worker.
The Court cannot accept that the matters referred to by the claimant and his union representative amounted to harassment and victimisation. While some difficulties have been experienced in the past, there is no reason as to why the claimant should now feel that his reputation or standing as an employee is in any way impugned. It is in the interest of both the claimant and Management that they put the past behind them and commit themselves to working together in a co-operative and positive manner for the future.
On the basis that this whole dispute can be finally disposed of, and as there is some doubt as to the correct interpretation of the Rights Commissioner's recommendation, the £350 recommended should be paid in addition to the loss of earnings suffered by the claimant in relation to the tug incident.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
18th June, 1999.______________________
Enquiries concerning this Decision should be addressed to Fran Brennan, Court Secretary.