INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 20(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1969
- AND -
(REPRESENTED BY SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION)
Chairman: Ms Jenkinson
Employer Member: Mr Pierce
Worker Member: Ms Ni Mhurchu
1. Alleged bullying and harassment.
2. The worker concerned commenced employment with RTE in 1979 and was appointed to the position of senior security officer in 1991. The dispute (one of five such disputes) concerns, the worker's claim that he has been consistently bullied and harassed by management in the Security section. He alleges that management's attitude towards him changed following his attendance at a disciplinary hearing. At the hearing the worker stated that he had witnessed ongoing abuse of a security officer by his shift colleagues and that there was no evidence to suggest that the criticism was justified.
RTE's position is that it considers bullying and harassment in the workplace to be unacceptable behaviour but argues that the worker has no basis for the allegations which he has made.
In September, 1998 the worker referred the matter to the Labour Court under Section 20(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1969 and agreed to be bound by the Court's recommendation. A Labour Court hearing took place on the 29th of March, 1999.
3. 1. Prior to his attendance at the disciplinary hearing the worker concerned had a good working relationship with the chief security officer. Subsequently when the chief security officer discussed the worker's evidence he appeared agitated and attempted to correct aspects of his evidence.
2. Following the hearing the worker received a number of memoranda regarding his work. The tone of the memoranda was hostile.
3. The worker was confronted by two of his colleagues who stated that they had knowledge of his evidence given at the disciplinary hearing. They threatened him with legal action.
4. The manner in which management handled the disciplinary situation caused the worker considerable stress and affected his family. He has been harassed and bullied for simply telling the truth.
5. Numerous attempts were made by the Union to resolve this matter. RTE has refused to deal with the issue in a serious way. It was aware of the allegations made against members of management and allowed the situation to continue.
6. The Union is seeking the following redress:-
(i) All unfair and untrue comments and reports to be removed from the
(ii) Letter to the worker confirming the above.
(iii) Letter of apology for the treatment meted out over the past three years.
(iv) Compensation for the trauma which the worker has suffered.
4. 1. RTE regards bullying and harassment in the workplace to be unacceptable behaviour. Perpetrators of such behaviour render themselves liable to disciplinary action. This is clearly laid out in its Personnel Policy and Procedures manual.
2. Management has an obligation to investigate any grievance/allegation raised by any member of staff. It is reasonable to expect the full co-operation of any individual who is able to assist in such an investigation and in particular a staff member who makes an allegation. It is unreasonable to raise allegations in such vague terms and then not accept management's offer to investigate them as is the case with the worker concerned.
3. RTE has had difficulty in dealing with the allegations due to the retirement of the chief security officer in question and because it was unable to carry out an investigation due to the worker's refusal to co-operate in such an investigation. However, the worker's document has been examined in detail and in no way justifies the allegation of bullying and harassment.
4. Management accepts that the worker gave evidence to the Board. The worker was not before the Board on a disciplinary matter, he was merely asked to give evidence and the Board was grateful for his assistance. The worker suggests that he told the Board that he intervened in ongoing abuse of a worker. This was not the case as he told the Board that he witnessed it once.
5. The worker's allegation of abuse by other security officers was not reported to management and is denied by the security officers concerned. As a senior security officer it would have been his duty to report any such incident. The worker also failed to report allegations of security staff "ganging" up on a colleague.
6. There is no basis for the worker's claim and no evidence was provided to substantiate the allegations made. It is unacceptable to make such claims and refuse to co-operate with an internal investigation.
The Court has given careful consideration to all the written and oral submissions of both sides. Having considered the five claims and their different details the Court is of the view that a solution would best be served by issuing one recommendation in relation to all five claims.
The Court is of the view that the disciplinary hearings of December 1995/January 1996 were unsatisfactorily handled and have been the source of many of the problems in this dispute. These problems were accentuated by failures in communication between the personnel department and the chief security officer, who at times was unaware of the complaints made.
The Court recommends that the Company should now formally acknowledge this situation to the complainants.
The Company has since recognised the mistakes made in conducting disciplinary hearings, and has indicated its intention to ensure that all future investigations/hearings will be dealt with in a different manner so as to ensure that the same problems will not arise.
No satisfactory procedure was in place to cope with the allegations of bullying and harassment in the Company. When the Union notified management of these allegations, management were slow to deal with the situation. These were serious allegations which should have invoked an immediate response. Management finally attempted to deal with the allegations under the existing grievance procedures.
Since this issue was referred to the Court, an agreed procedure has been put in place which is specifically designed to deal with bullying and harassment allegations. This procedure was too late to deal with this dispute. Both sides lost out as a result of deficient procedures.
The Court considers that the most satisfactory result to be achieved at this point would be to look jointly to the future operation and relations within the Security section and to attempt to facilitate a fresh start in order to establish a good working environment.
This possibility is facilitated from the outset by a change in management of the section. The new manager must not be saddled by the "baggage" that has developed over the past three years. Additionally the development of new procedures should assist in clearing any future problems.
With this in mind, the Court recommends that the following steps should be taken;
- all critical letters or reports connected with the disciplinary hearings and with all aspects of this dispute should be removed from the personnel files of the five individuals involved in this dispute. Confirmation of this action should be given to each of the claimants and to the Union along with the formal acknowledgment referred to above.
- in an effort to ensure that the new bullying and harassment procedures are effective, management should engage the services of a professional in this field to communicate the policy to all employees, and train all supervisors and managers on how to handle complaints under these procedures. Both the Company and the union should consider jointly the structuring of such training in line with clause 6 of Partnership 2000 - High Level Skills and Life Long Learning.
- management must accept that all employees have a right to be treated with respect and dignity in the performance of their duty.
- employees must accept their duties and obligations to management and that grievances must be processed under the appropriate procedures in the normal way.
- the training needs of supervisors in the security area must be assessed particularly with regard to people management skills, and the identified needs should be addressed as soon as possible.
The Court is of the view that it should not have been necessary for the Union to refer these claims under Section 20 of the Industrial Relations Acts, 1969-1990. Management should have made every effort to investigate these allegations before referring to a third party.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
7th May, 1999______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Fran Brennan, Court Secretary.