INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
(REPRESENTED BY THE IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Ms Jenkinson
Employer Member: Mr McHenry
Worker Member: Ms Ni Mhurchu
1. Dispute concerning the filling of a vacancy.
2. The Company operate a warehouse and distribution centre in Johnstown, Co. Kildare. This dispute relates to the conduct of a selection procedure to what is known as an 'indoor' position. The indoor section consists of the warehouse, checking, loading, picking, packing and ancillary duties. The appointment was offered to a worker in the outdoor department. The Union claims that this was contrary to established custom and practice and that departmental seniority should be recognised in the filling of promotional vacancies. The Company stated that the most suitable candidate was appointed on the basis of merit. The dispute was referred to the Labour Relations Commission and conciliation conferences were held on December, 1998, January and February, 1999. Agreement was not reached. The dispute was referred to the Labour Court by the Labour Relations Commission on the 26th of February, 1999. A Court hearing was held on the 7th of May, 1999.
3. 1. It is custom and practice within the Company to recognise departmental seniority in the filling of promotional vacancies. The filling of such vacancies should always be on a departmental basis in the first instance with outside entry into the department being at the most junior level. The Company argues it has made promotional appointments based on merit and cite instances where indoor workers applied to the Transport Section to go on the road as helpers. However, these were not promotional positions - helpers are junior to drivers and both workers went to the bottom of the Transport Department seniority list.
2. The interview and selection process is seriously flawed. One applicant was omitted from the process. The Management panel for the interviews for the unsuccessful applicants interviews at Johnstown was different to the panel which interviewed the successful applicant at Head Office. A number of workers stated that the successful applicant had informed them that he was getting the job before the interview process was completed. Some workers who were interviewed felt that the interview was not comprehensive and at least one worker interviewed reported no discussion/questioning on the work content of the vacant post.
3. The Union claims that an additional 6th post should be created to the current complement of 5 positions. On this basis workers will withdraw their objection to the appointment of an outdoor worker and open negotiations with Management on future appointments.
4. 1. The Company does not accept that it was an established custom and practice that promotional positions are or were awarded on seniority with departmental favour. Over the past 10 years promotion positions were filled on the basis of merit and that seniority was only taken into account if there were two candidates of equal merit for the position.
2. The Union states that it is established custom and practice that promotion positions are awarded on seniority and that seniority has departmental character. The Company rejects this contention. It is not correct to suggest that the warehouse and transportation staff are autonomous units. The Company does not view them as two separate and unconnected branches and obviously their work is dependent upon one another. It is perfectly within its right to appoint workers from other areas to operate a job on the basis of merit. This can be held true in the cases of the transport fleet who previously worked in the warehouse. The opposite also applies for warehouse staff working on transport when transport staff are absent on a continued basis and are pleased to do so. In other words the two are not mutually exclusive.
3. This dispute arose out of the appointment of a transport member to the warehouse, but this worker was appointed on the basis that he had done the job before. The worker in question had previously worked as a loader and the Company took the view that this worker had far more experience and proved his worth at the confined interview and was appointed to the position.
4. The warehouse staff are not precluded from applying for a vacancy within the transport section provided that they have the required licence to drive trucks. It would be untenable in any Company to have a complete chasm between two categories of workers who are clearly providing the same service i.e., delivering goods to member companies. Consequently, the Company has never condoned and can not condone such a divergent approach towards doing business because ultimately profits would suffer.
5. The Company has not breached any agreement on the appointment of staff. It acted upon its existing policy of 10 years. The Union although citing appointment based on seniority with departmental favour, has failed to produce such an agreement.
6. The Company proposed at conciliation conferences to provide a way forward particularly with the appointment of staff from the respective departments but based on merit as opposed to seniority.
7. As the Company has introduced a rationalisation programme involving redundancies in both the indoor and outdoor departments the questions of creating an extra position cannot be considered.
Having considered the submissions made, it seems clear to the Court that a lot of differences in this dispute arose from the perceived flaws adopted in the interview procedures by the Company. The Court is of the view that the selection procedures used were not conducive to good industrial relations
The Court notes the conflict of evidence between the parties on whether selection has, by custom and practice, been based on seniority. In this case, the Court is not satisfied from the evidence produced, that an inappropriate appointment has been made, therefore, it does not recommend that the appointment should be overturned.
The Court recommends that negotiations should commence between the parties on setting out new procedures for future appointments. In the interest of resuming good industrial relations, the Court recommends that the Company should make a gesture of goodwill to the workers involved in this claim.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
17th May, 1999______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Tom O'Dea, Court Secretary.