INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 13(9), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1969
GUY & COMPANY LIMITED
(REPRESENTED BY THE IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
THE IRISH PRINT GROUP (SIPTU)
Chairman: Mr Duffy
Employer Member: Mr McHenry
Worker Member: Mr O'Neill
1. Appeal by both parties against Rights Commissioner's Recommendation IR946/98.
2. The Company operates in the printing business and is located in Ballincollig, Co. Cork. The dispute concerns one worker, a guillotine operator, who was employed by the Company from July, 1994 until the 14th of January, 1999. The Union claims that the worker, having been accused, in November, 1998, of being unfit to work due to excessive alcohol consumption, had no choice but to leave the Company. The Union added that the Company had acted inappropriately in making accusations against the worker and a colleague of his in the presence of a large number of management personnel. The Union sought an apology and maximum compensation for the worker. ( Subsequent medical evidence did not support the Company's allegations). The Company responded that, arising from a number of incidents involving the worker and a colleague, the Company would have been negligent not to react to the situation as it did. The Company claimed that, while it had always tried to be helpful if employees had problems, in this situation it had applied fair and correct procedures.
The dispute was the subject of investigation by a Rights Commissioner who found that not only was management entitled to investigate the matter but that it was obliged to do so. The Rights Commissioner, however, did not accept that the Company had applied fair procedures in respect of the lack of representation for the worker and the number of management present at the meeting when the matter was discussed.
While finding that there was no malice intended by the Company, he believed it appropriate that the Company should pay the worker a lump sum as a gesture of good will. The Rights Commissioner recommended that the Company should offer, and the worker should accept, a once-off lump sum of £500, in full and final settlement of the dispute.
The Union and the Company appealed the Rights Commissioner's Recommendation, on the 21st April, 1999 and on the 18th May, 1999, respectively, in accordance with Section 13(9) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1969. The Court heard the appeals, in Cork, on the 2nd November, 1999, the earliest date convenient to both parties.
3. 1. While accepting that the Company had an obligation to investigate the matter, once the worker was vindicated, an apology should have followed from the Company. The payment recommended as a gesture of good will does not meet the desire of the worker who was falsely accused, to have his name cleared.
2. The worker is innocent of what he was accused of and should receive an apology and proper compensation for the indignity he suffered and arising from the fact that the could not continue working at the Company in the circumstances that obtained.
4. 1. The Company's procedures were fair and correct. The guillotine is a high-risk machine and the Company had no choice but to follow the procedures in this case so no harm came to the worker or his colleague. Due to the previous history of the worker, the Company feels there was reasonable doubt as to his fitness to work.
2. The worker, at no stage, suffered financially or had a written record arising from this incident and he returned to normal duties the following day.
3. At the initial meeting concerning the matter, six members of management were present due to the fact that they were already taking part in a meeting when the incident occurred.
4. Given the Company's previous demonstration of generosity and good will towards the worker the Company is of the view that it is inappropriate for it to pay him £500 as a goodwill gesture.
The Court has given careful consideration to the submissions of the parties to this appeal, and has reached the following conclusions:-
1. The Company management formed a bona-fide suspicion that the claimant was unfit to work due to the consumption of alcohol. In such circumstances the Company was obliged to prevent him from working on an inherently dangerous operation. No fault can be attached to management for its actions in that regard.
2. The medical evidence subsequently obtained confirmed that the claimant had not consumed alcohol on the day in question. This evidence should have been accepted as conclusive and acknowledged as such by the Company at the first opportunity.
3. In the Court's view the Company failed to acknowledge,adequately,that the claimant had not consumed alcohol on the day in question.
In all the circumstances, the Court believes that the Company should now formally acknowledge that the claimant had not been drinking on the day in question. Furthermore, arising from its failure to make,fully,this formal acknowledgement earlier, and as a good will gesture, a sum of £500 should be paid to the claimant.
The Rights Commissioner's Recommendation is varied accordingly.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
19th November, 1999______________________
Enquiries concerning this Decision should be addressed to Michael Keegan, Court Secretary.