INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
(REPRESENTED BY THE IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
MARINE, PORT AND GENERAL WORKERS' UNION
Chairman: Mr Duffy
Employer Member: Mr McHenry
Worker Member: Ms Ni Mhurchu
1. (1) Routing arrangements; (2) Pecking order; (3) New wage structure.
2. The Company is a wholesaler of pharmaceutical products and delivers to pharmacies nationally. It employs approximately 190 people. The Company was formed in 1994 following a merger of two companies; United Pharmacists Co-Operative and Allied Pharmaceutical Distributors. Routing arrangements for the various runs were last agreed with the Company's drivers in 1995. The Company has two depots; Finglas (5 drivers) and Stillorgan (8 drivers). There are thirteen different routes involved, with different levels of overtime earnings for each route. The drivers concerned operate in order of seniority for the purpose of progression through the routes.
In April, 1998 the Company sought to revise the routes on the basis that they no longer met the needs of the marketplace in terms of efficiency and delivery times to customers. The Company claims that there would be no loss of earnings for any driver.
During Company/Union negotiations a senior driver died. The Company proposed to break-up the vacant route and employ two new drivers. However, the existing drivers claimed hat they were entitled to progress up the agreed routes according to the agreed "Pecking Order" and claimed that the Company was in breach of the agreement.
The Company claimed that the 1995 routing had been designed against a background of a re-organisation of the Company's activities with the objective of maintaining the earnings of the individual named drivers, rather than on the basis of efficiency. It was not intended to provide the named drivers with the prospects of enchanting their earnings on inefficient routes.
The Union rejected the Company's arguments and stated that they wanted a more equitable wage structure in terms of the earnings available to the different drivers. The Union also claims that there was an agreed system of routes and an agreed "Pecking Order" agreement. It felt that the Company was "jumping the gun" in relation to the negotiations on the overall routing arrangements. The Union is also seeking a revision of the wage structure.
As no agreement was possible between the parties the dispute was referred to the Conciliation Service of the Labour Relations Commission. Conciliation conferences were held on the 30th and 31st of March, 1999. The dispute was referred to the Labour Court on the 1st of April, 1999 under Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. The Court investigated the dispute on the 29th of April, 1999.
3. 1. The Company cannot alter routes without consultation with the union.
2. The Company has refused to replace a senior driver who died with a full-time replacement and as a consequence moving the other drivers along the "Pecking Order".
4. 1. The Company is entitled to alter routes to meet the demands and needs of the business.
2. Delivery routes must meet the changing service and economic requirements of the customer base.
5. 1. There was an agreed system of routes and an agreed "Pecking Order" system which the Company has not adhered to.
2. It was agreed that each driver from Finglas and Stillorgan would maintain their current routes and seniority in both depots.
6. 1. It is management's responsibility to alter routes in response to changes in the marketplace. No driver will be at a financial loss as a result of such changes.
2. Any changes will in fact require additional drivers and vehicles to provide the enchanted level of service.
WAGE STRUCTURE REVIEW
7. 1. The Union is seeking an overall review of the current wage structure within the Company.
2. The Union agreed to an eight week trial period in 1998 to help the Company maintain its position in the marketplace. This was agreed on the basis that the Company would initiate a pay review. The Company has reneged on the pay review.
8. 1. The wage structure review was not included in the Conciliation Officer's proposals.
2. The alteration to any route changes will not affect the wages of named drivers and as such there is no basis to the claim for a review of the wage structure.
The Court has considered the submissions of the parties in this case.
It is clear to the Court that while three separate issues have been referred they are inter-related and should be resolved in the context of an overall agreement.
With regard to re-organisation of routes, the Court fully excepts that the Company is entitled to make such changes as it considers necessary in order to maintain its competitive position and provide an efficient service to its customers. However, the type of change anticipated by the Company would, inevitably, impact on the potential of existing employees to improve their earning potential by changing routes on the "pecking order". In the Court's view, the implementation of the Company's proposal to alter existing routes should be implemented in the context of an agreement which addresses the Union's concerns with regard to its affect on this issue.
With regard to the Union's claim for wage structure review, the Court does not accept that there is any basis for a general wage increase within the Company. This should not, however, preclude an examination of the current wage structure in a manner proposed by the Union.
The Court recommends that the parties should make a further effort to conclude a composite agreement covering the issues now before the Court. Negotiation should commence as quickly as possible between the parties and should conclude within an agreed time-frame.
The Court so recommends.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
10th May, 1999______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Larry Wisely, Court Secretary.