INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
ARTHUR DAGG & CO
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Ms Jenkinson
Employer Member: Mr Keogh
Worker Member: Mr O'Neill
1. Dispute concerning the implementation of no smoking policy.
2. The Company is a major specialist supplier of elastic fabrics to Marks and Spencer. The dispute relates to the Company proposal to phase out smoking in its plant. At the present time workers are allowed to take three paid smoking breaks of up to eight minutes duration per shift. The Company has been seeking to implement a non-smoking policy on a phased basis for some time. The Company states that following consultation and a ballot of the workforce, agreement was reached on the phased introduction as follows:
Smoking banned from1st of January, 1999 in the canteen and to be restricted to the smoke room provided
3 unofficial unpaid breaks - Jan, Feb, Mar, 1999
2 unofficial unpaid breaks - Apr, May, Jun, 1999
1 unofficial unpaid break - Jul, Aug, Sep, 1999
Official breaks only - Oct, Nov, Dec, 1999
Complete ban on smoking - January, 2000.
The Union rejected the Company's proposals on the basis that proper consultation did not take place, agreement was not reached and that the loss of paid breaks had to be addressed. The dispute was referred to the Labour Relations Commission and a conciliation conference was held on the 25th of January, 1999. Agreement was not reached and the dispute was referred to the Labour Court by the Labour Relations Commission on the 29th of January, 1999. A Court hearing was held on the 1st of March, 1999.
1. The Company is trying to force through substantial changes in the area of smoking breaks but has not allowed proper consultation with the Union official and members at plant level. The Company, in order to facilitate smokers, built a special smoking cubicle to facilitate the taking of agreed smoke breaks two years ago. The Company/Union agreement allows for smoke breaks to take place in designated areas of the canteen during official lunch and tea breaks. The Company, at local level, offered a ballot to workers on the subject of removing smoking from the Canteen area. It was overwhelming rejected.
2. The Union is agreeable to considering the elimination of smoking breaks within an agreed time frame once the Company agrees to continue to allow payment for these breaks, as was the custom and practice, while the agreed elimination for these breaks takes place.
1. The Company has been forced to reduce its administrative and overhead costs because of the financial and trading situation. The future economic outlook is very uncertain. The Company's stance on the elimination of smoking, apart from cost implications, is derived from health and safety considerations. It cannot continue to "pay workers to smoke" as it considers itself exposed to litigation. The Company explained to workers that it would provide the opportunity to work up this time at the end of their shift.
2. The Company cannot continue to offer smokers an unfair paid break advantage which non-smokers were not entitled to. The Company cannot afford to pay either smokers or non-smokers additional paid breaks, particularly in the current economic climate.
3. The Company is prepared to put in place tea/coffee facilities for the duration of the agreed phased period. Other incentives include eligibility for a monthly draw for workers that did not use the smoke room during unofficial breaks, and a loan repayable over four weeks to those who could not fund aids to help give up the habit.
Clearly a breakdown in industrial relations has taken place in this Company. This appears to have taken place against a background of a deteriorating commercial situation in the Company.
The future viability of the Company will require the use of all Management's resources of which the workforce is a vital component. Given the present trading position of the Company, it is clear to the Court that the Company will be greatly assisted by a resolution of the present industrial relations impasse.
It is impossible for the Court to consider this issue in isolation because of the deteriorated industrial relations climate. In an effort to bring about a resumption of the good industrial relations which had prevailed for the past 25 years, the Court recommends that both parties should now focus on the need to ensure a resumption of good industrial relations for the sake of the future viability of the Company which is currently meeting serious competitive pressure now, as outlined by the management.
As a first step, the Company should re-introduce deduction of union dues at source and every effort must be made by both parties to resume normal industrial relations. The parties should consider using the facilities of the Advisory Services of the Labour Relations Commission to assist them in this task. The Court recommends that this must be done as a matter of urgency.
On the issue before the Court, the Company's initiative in attempting to introduce a non-smoking policy is commendable. However, this must be done in consultation with employees. A situation has developed of allowing employees to take paid breaks to smoke. While this may be an unsatisfactory situation for any Company and it is quite understandable why a company would wish to regularise such a situation, it cannot be overlooked that a custom and practice has developed.
The Court fully appreciates the Company's fear of litigation, it has allowed employees to smoke on Company time and premises (as has been the practice in many other companies). To eliminate this practice involves a change to the custom and practice and therefore, is one which must be done in consultation with employees and which normally takes time to implement. While employees were consulted and asked to ballot on the issue, the Court considers that the ballot taken has not resolved the situation.
Therefore, the Court recommends that a non-smoking policy should be introduced on a phased basis, the smoking room should be equipped with appropriate tea and coffee facilities, paid smoking breaks should be phased out as follows:
3 breaks until end of March, 1999
2 breaks until end of June, 1999
1 break until end of July, 1999.
Smoking should be allowed in the smoking room only at official break times. There should be a total ban on smoking from January, 2000.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
22nd March, 1999.______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Tom O'Dea, Court Secretary.