INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 13(9), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1969
(REPRESENTED BY THE IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Mr Duffy
Employer Member: Mr McHenry
Worker Member: Ms Ni Mhurchu
1. Appeal against Rights Commissioner's Recommendation 435/98CW.
2. The worker has been employed by the Company as a machinist for 14 years. The Company (formerly Farrah) was subject to a management buy-out in July, 1997. It manufactures clothes.
The Union's case is that due to bullying and harassment by her supervisor and the plant manager, the worker became unwell due to stress and has not worked since February, 1998.
The Company maintains that it investigated the claims of bullying in February, 1998, but that the real issue involved a loss of earnings by the worker. The worker was absent through illness from September, 1997 to January, 1998. Because the Company operates a piece-rate system, the worker's average earnings had dropped due to her absence.
The Union referred the case to a Rights Commissioner and a hearing took place on the 22nd of October, 1998. The following is the Rights Commissioner's recommendation.
"I recommend that the worker accepts that she has
no dispute with the Company."
(The worker was named in the above recommendation.)
The Union appealed the recommendation to the Labour Court on the 29th of January, 1999 in accordance with Section 13(9) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1969. A Labour Court hearing took place on the 21st of April, 1999, in Castlebar, the earliest date suitable to the parties.
3. 1. The worker has been employed by the Company for 14 years. She had no problem with management before the take-over in July, 1997.
2. The worker was always recognised as working to very high standards. Following the change of management, the quality of clothing coming into the factory became worse and the worker had to spend more time trying to achieve her previous standard. She was also put onto a lower rate of pay.
3. The worker was made to do other people's repairs. When she brought this to the attention of her supervisor she was ridiculed (details supplied to the Court).
4. The worker had raised the issue of payment on the new "rail system" on a number of occasions but was given no answer by her supervisor. She raised the issue again on the 9th of February but was verbally abused. The worker became ill as a result and has not returned to work since.
4. 1. The worker's allegations of bullying were investigated immediately (on the 9th of February, 1998) by a Company Director. The Director apologised to the worker if any perceived bullying or harassment had taken place.
2. The supervisor and plant manager who were accused of bullying are no longer with the Company.
3. It appeared at the Rights Commissioner's hearing that the real issue was a loss of earnings for the worker. This occurred because the worker did not have any piece-work earnings for the period September, 1997 to January, 1998 as she was absent due to illness.
4. The worker has been told that her job is still available if she returns to work
Having considered the submissions by the parties, the Court is satisfied that the Company acted fairly in dealing with the claimant’s grievance, and provided her with a full opportunity of processing it through the internal grievance procedure.
Furthermore, convincing evidence has not been produced to show that the illness of the claimant and her consequential loss of earnings can be attributed to any action or inaction on the part of the Company.
In the these circumstances, the Court finds no basis on which it should interfere with the recommendation of the Rights Commissioner. The recommendation of the Rights Commissioner is confirmed, and appeal is disallowed.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
17th May, 1999______________________
Enquiries concerning this Decision should be addressed to Ciaran O'Neill, Court Secretary.