INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Mr Duffy
Employer Member: Mr Keogh
Worker Member: Mr Rorke
1. New wage agreement.
2. The Company is a subsidiary of a U.S. based multi-national. It has three plants in Co. Sligo, one in Co. Cavan and one in Co. Donegal. The dispute relates to the plant in Ballytivnan, Co. Sligo and concerns 700 workers. The Company manufactures a range of disposable plastic devices for worldwide distribution and sale. It negotiates pay agreements on a different basis to national agreements. A five year agreement expired on the 30th of November, 1998. The Union submitted a claim for a replacement agreement providing for a 9% increase over eighteen months together with an increase in VHI payments and other improvements. The Company's offer of 4.5% was rejected by workers. Subsequently, the parties entered into negotiations on a thirty-six month agreement. The Union claimed 6% per year plus full VHI cover (as per the staff scheme). The Company offer provided for an 11% increase over three years with an increase of 33% in the Company's subsidy toward VHI, together with other benefits. The offer was rejected following a ballot of the workforce. The dispute was referred to the Labour Relations Commission and conciliation conferences were held on the 5th of February, and 15th of April, 1999. Agreement was not reached. The dispute was referred to the Labour Court by the Labour Relations Commission on the 7th of July, 1999. A Court hearing was held in Sligo on the 29th of September, 1999.
1. The Company's offer on basic pay rates is not sufficient to offset inflation and compensate workers for significant productivity which they have given over the five years of the first agreement, which Management expects will also continue into this agreement. The Company has conceded that it has retained the price of its finished product at 1992 levels through increased productivity and in this way has remained competitive - up to 30% productivity in many cases.
2. Workers would need a 6% increase per year in order to maintain their standard of living. There has been a huge increase in house prices in the area, making such a purchase exceedingly difficult at current pay levels. The pressure is manifesting itself in the Union's claim given that the increase has not been reflected in the inflation rate as house prices are not included in inflation figures.
3. The Company has stated that "all its employees are equal". This is not manifested in relation to its treatment of VHI payments for workers. The Company currently pays full VHI contributions for staff members, their spouses and families. In contrast, it pays £75 per worker and £75 per partner/spouse and £18 per child. The Company should pay full VHI for workers, their partners and children.
4. While basic pay and VHI contributions are the main issues in dispute, all other items in the Company's offer, while less important, must be included in whatever final package is offered.
1. The Company operates in a global market and faces very severe competition in the market place. The Company's challenge is to replace some of the mature old products in Sligo with more higher technical and advanced products. Management wishes to do this in a manner which recognises the contribution of workers, while maintaining the security of jobs. A three year agreement demonstrates stability and promotes confidence in the Sligo operation.
2. The Company recognises the contribution of the workers. It has consistently paid above the national norm in recognition of workers contributions. The number of workers has increased from 450 in 1987 to 700 presently. The Company has invested very substantial sums in processes and technology. The offer of 11% over three years is well in excess of Partnership 2000 and far in excess of inflation (1.4%). The Company has also increased a number of benefits as part of its offer, which is recognised as being in the top 10% of deals agreed nationally.
3. Another group of workers at the Sligo plant have accepted a similar offer and concessions in the existing offer would lead to repercussive claims from that group.
4. A recent survey of wages and conditions of employment in the region shows that the Company's rates of pay and other benefits are amongst the top.
5. The Company has substantially increased the VHI subsidy. At discussions, Management indicated that it could look at re-packaging its offer within the overall cost parameters or extend the agreement by three months allowing further improvements in this area. It was not acceptable to the Union.
In the Court's view an agreement of 39 months duration would be in line with the position in industry generally, and should be adopted in this case. In the context of a 39 month agreement, the Company should increase its pay offer by 1%.
In the case of the VHI contributions, the employer's offer should be increased so as to provide a 35% improvement in the present arrangements over 39 months.
The Court also recommends that in the event of exceptional and unforeseen increases in the cost of VHI cover during the currency of the proposed agreement, the Union should be free to reopen the question of the employer's contribution.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
12th October, 1999.______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Tom O'Dea, Court Secretary.