INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
JOHN A WOOD LIMITED.
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Mr Duffy
Employer Member: Mr McHenry
Worker Member: Mr O'Neill
1. Terms for Redundancy and Redeployment
2. The Company is involved in the sand and gravel industry in the Munster area. It has a number of depots in Cork, Kerry and Waterford and employs approximately 425 people.
The dispute concerns the Company's plan to close its garage in Ballincollig for the purpose of decentralising its operation. The garage is the maintenance centre for all other locations.
The Company is prepared to offer redeployment to all 23 employees affected by the closure and has offered lump sum payments in return for redeployment. In certain situations, it is prepared to offer a limited number of redundancies on a seniority basis.
The dispute was referred to the Labour Relations Commission. Conciliation conferences took place in November/December, 1998, and May, 1999. Following the conciliation conference in May, 1999, the Industrial Relations Officer put forward a proposal on the understanding that it would be recommended for acceptance by both parties, and if rejected by either side, the proposal was to be viewed as having never been made. The proposal was rejected by the Union. It argues that the workers do not accept Management's assurances that suitable redeployment can be provided and is seeking a redundancy package based on average earnings. As agreement could not be reached, the dispute was referred to the Labour Court on the 14th of July, 1999, under Section 26 (1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. A Labour
Court hearing took place in Cork on the 15th of September, 1999.
3. 1. In the early 1980's, the Company embarked on a policy of privatising its rolling stock by actively introducing owner-drivers. This policy is much in evidence up to the present. The consequence of this policy has reduced the number of drivers to 33, 18 of whom are based in Ballincollig. A significant factor in the Union's case is that the average age of these drivers is 60 years of age, and the fact that there has been little or no investment by the Company in road transport since 1996.
2. The Company recently embarked on another method of privatisation, out-sourcing the services of maintenance of new earth moving plant machinery.
3. Part of the proposal put forward by the Labour Relations Commission was that each worker concerned with the closure had a choice of (a) redundancy and (b) relocation. The stated policy of privatisation by Management has created an insecure environment, and the employees are concerned that there is no secure future, mainly because of the depletion of the overall plant, and their preference now is towards a redundancy package.
4. The 6.2 weeks per year of service is based on basic earnings. Most of the staff have become dependent on overtime, which constituted an average of 38% of their salary. The Company, whilst accepting that overtime and bonuses are a major part of earnings, refuse to calculate the redundancy package on this basis. In the circumstances, the Union's claim for a redundancy package based on average earnings is justified.
4. 1. The delays and cost of towing large dumpers and loading shovels from their place of operation to Ballincollig are no longer acceptable. All other major quarrying companies have long since repaired plant in situ. The current practices cannot be justified, on either economic or efficiency grounds.
2. The number of Company trucks has fallen dramatically over the years as the business has moved to owner operated transport. In May, 1997, the number of employee drivers was 66, presently there are 34 and its is expected that a number of these will consider the option of becoming self-employed.
3. Plant and equipment have become increasingly more reliable, and many repairs now involve electronic rather than mechanical overhaul.
4. The unwillingness of mechanics and fitters to work on all equipment entering the garage has resulted in inefficiencies and delays in repairing vital plant. Additionally, where external locations were in a position to repair plant and equipment, they were prevented from doing so by their colleagues in the central location in Ballincollig.
5. The Company increased its previous redundancy terms at a substantial cost in November, 1997, to reduce prohibitive transport costs, increase competitiveness and regain market share from predominately non-Union competition. This gave an employee with 20 years service an additional £8,500.
6. The Company has fully honoured its commitment to pay in Partnership 2000. In addition, it has made significant and costly improvements to the pension, sick-pay and annual bonus.
7. The Company is prepared to offer alternative employment to all Ballincollig employees. It has made generous offers in terms of relocation, and guaranteed to red-circle rates of pay. It is attempting through restructuring to protect all 425 jobs in the Company. Any redundancies arising are of a voluntary nature, and should be subject to the voluntary redundancy package available to all other employees.
8. The Court is requested to accept that the Company/Union Agreement covers all employees, and that there should be full flexibility and inter-changeability of crafts following the transfer of employees from Ballincollig garage. Clause 13 states:
" There should be full flexibility and inter-changeability of employees within and between operations and plants in each Company location or site, in accordance with the ability of individuals and subject to safety requirements."
While two claims were referred to the Court for investigation, the Union indicated at the commencement of the hearing that its principal concern was in relation to redundancy terms and that it did not require a recommendation on redeployment.
The background against which this issue was referred to the Court is most unusual. The Company has indicated to the Court that its requirement for staff in the categories now seeking redundancy have not in any way diminished. It is prepared to offer redeployment to all those affected by this claim on their current rates of pay and conditions of employment, including the range of duties which they will be expected to perform. Moreover, significant lump sum payments are being offered to those who accept redeployment. The Union does not accept the Company's assurances that suitable redeployment can be provided, and maintains that redundancy is the only acceptable option for those affected by the closure of the Ballincollig depot.
In circumstances in which the Company wishes to retain the services of those seeking to be made redundant, it seems to the Court that further efforts should be made to clarify the terms on which redeployment can be made available, and to address the concerns expressed by the Union at the hearing. The Court would urge both parties to enter into further discussions on this issue.
With regard to the claim for an enhanced redundancy package, the Court notes that, following conciliation, a proposal was agreed for recommendation which equates to 6.2 weeks' pay per year of service. The Court considers this offer to be generous in the circumstances of this case, and can see no basis on which it could recommend that it be further enhanced.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
4th October, 1999.______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Fran Brennan, Court Secretary.