INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 13(9), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1969
HOWMEDICA INTERNATIONAL (LIMERICK)
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Mr Duffy
Employer Member: Mr Keogh
Worker Member: Mr Rorke
1. Appeal of Rights Commissioner's recommendation No. 773/98 concerning lump-sum payment.
2. The dispute concerns the terms of a Partnership Agreement, concluded between the parties in late 1997, which provided for the introduction of a single 'multiskilled rate' for all employees.
Under the terms of the agreement employees moved on to the multiskilled rate immediately, without performing work traditionally identified as attracting the rate. Individuals already on the rate for a continuous period of six months received a lump-sum payment of £750, later increased by £400. Under the latter payment all remaining employees received £250.
The dispute concerns the Union's claim on behalf of a worker for the payment of the £750. Management rejects the claim. It argues that the worker failed to meet the criteria for payment of six months continuous service on the multiskilled rate prior to the agreement becoming effective.
The matter was referred to a Rights Commissioner for investigation and recommendation. The Rights Commissioner's findings and recommendation are as follow:-
"Based on the evidence before me, I am satisfied that the Company has interpreted the agreement correctly and I see no reason why I should recommend any additional payment to the worker. I therefore recommend that the claim fails."
The Rights Commissioner's recommendation was appealed by the Union to the Labour Court on the 24th of February, 1999 under Section 13(9) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1969. The Labour Court heard the appeal in Limerick on the 31st of August, 1999, the earliest date suitable to the parties.
3. 1. It was the worker's understanding that he was entitled to benefit from the lump-sum payments as he was operating in a multiskilled job and receiving the appropriate rate at the time the agreement was concluded.
2. The worker balloted on the basis that the agreement did not stipulate in writing that the criteria of 26 weeks existed as a qualification for this payment.
4. 1. Although the qualifying period of six months continuous service was verbally agreed between the Company and the Union, this verbal agreement was concluded prior to the ballot on the Partnership Agreement. It was acknowledged by the Union, during the investigation by the Rights Commissioner, that the existence of this verbal agreement was known by the membership prior to the ballot. It was communicated to them as part of the pre-ballot communication process and a list was published of those qualifying for the payment. This claim is in breach of the agreement.
2. The Company must operate all agreements in full, both written and verbal, without exception, if it is to ensure their validity and fairness. There is consistency in the Company's approach to this matter and the claim fails to meet agreed criteria for receiving this payment. There is no scope for misunderstanding or for interpretation.
3. Concession of the claim would lead to follow-on claims which the Company would have to concede. Furthermore, it would undermine confidence in other agreements that exist between the Company and the Union. Such agreements are an integral part of the industrial relations process and depend on each side having trust and confidence in the other to honour such agreements. In the circumstances the Court is requested to reject the claim.
Having considered the submissions of the parties the Court is fully satisfied that the conclusion and recommendation of the Rights Commissioner are correct.
The Court upholds the recommendation of the Rights Commissioner and the appeal is disallowed.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
21st September, 1999______________________
Enquiries concerning this Decision should be addressed to Fran Brennan, Court Secretary.