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. Change in early start agreement.
2. In November, 1993, the parties reached agreement for the introduction of an early morning shift commencing at 05.00 hours (for clerical staff employed in ground operations at Dublin Airport). The Agreement provides for a maximum of 35 duties per roster (weekly) and for employees to work a maximum of one 05.00 shift every 21 days.
In September, 1998, the Company sought an increase in the number of duties per week and to remove the restriction of one 05.00 hours start every 21 days. Local level discussions took place following which the Union sought the following in return for accepting additional starts as per Clause 12 of the agreement:-
(1) An additional £20 to be paid for 05.00 shift.
(2) Free transport to and from work for staff scheduled to work 05.00 shift.
(3) Promotion from Grade 4 to Grade 3 after eighteen months service, from original date of service.
(4) Health and Safety provisions maintained as per 1993 Agreement.
(5) Roster review to be completed as per the 1993 Agreement.
In relation to the number of 05.00 starts worked by individuals, the Union argues that those conditions were deemed necessary in 1993 to protect the Health and Safety of the employees and must be maintained.
The Company rejects the claim. It argues that the agreement reached in 1993 reflects the Company's operational requirement at that time but the agreement now places a number of unacceptable restrictions on its ability to respond to customer demands in the operation and manning of its schedule.
The matter was the subject of two conciliation conferences held under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission. As agreement was not reached the dispute was referred to the Labour Court on the 26th of July, 1999 under Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations, Act, 1990. A Labour Court hearing took place on the 26th of August, 1999.
3. 1. Clause 1 of the 1993 Agreement provides for a commitment to review the roster. This review is deemed necessary because currently the Company operates a roster which has sixteen different start times. It is inappropriate for the Company to propose an increase in the number of 05.00 shifts before the roster review is complete.
2. The Union is cognisant of the demands placed on Aer Lingus by its customers. However, it is equally concerned with the health and well-being of its members in meeting those demands. The Union is satisfied that the conditions governing the operation of the 05.00 shift are fair and reasonable.
3. The Union is prepared to discuss with management an increase in the number of 05.00 duties on the basis of the retention of the conditions agreed. it is the Union's view that the operation of additional 05.00 shifts with existing conditions is feasible in the key check-in and boarding areas.
4. The Union is concerned that management are pre-occupied with removing the conditions of the agreement rather than meeting the needs of its employees and customers.
5. In 1992 the Labour Court issued recommendation number LCR13477. In relation to altering the agreement for the 05.00 shift it stated "the Court would, however, consider any extension of the earlier starting time either in terms of time or numbers involved beyond that presently proposed by the Company to be a major change in conditions and would require further negotiations."
6. The Union is prepared to negotiate an increase in the number of 05.00 under the following conditions:-
(1) Health and safety protection to be maintained, especially Clause 8 of the 1993 Agreement.
(2) Roster review to be completed.
(3) Adequate compensation for change to the 1993 Agreement.
4. 1. Many Irish Commercial Enterprises have had to radically alter their operation to harness the energies of the much vaunted 'Celtic Tiger'. Government, in tandem with the Social Partners recognise this need for change as evidenced in the joint guidelines for the implementation of Partnership 2000.
Article 2 thereof quotes:- The Parties are committed to full and ongoing co-operation with change and the need for continued adaptation and flexibility to maintain and improve competitiveness.
Aer Lingus has met all of its commitments under Partnership 2000 and has recently reached agreement on the local bargaining element of the accord. It has met all of the requirements placed on it and it now requires the Union to deliver on its part of this flexibility for which it has already been paid.
2. It is easy to look at Aer Lingus returning a profit of £54 million for 1998 and forget all that has gone on in the immediate past. Cognisance must be taken of the past because it has a tremendous bearing on the present and , indeed, the future.
3. The Union's demand for compensation for additional flexibility is unreasonable. The Company's requirement for this flexibility has its origin in commercial reality. Its passengers want to leave Ireland, conduct a day's business overseas and return on the same day. This means that Aer Lingus must be able to get them to their destinations sooner if it is to retain their business. Coupled with this, the Company must control the cost base in the face of mounting competition in the marketplace.
4. The Company wish to change the restriction of only one 05.00 shift per individual in 21 days, and that only 35 duties per week are available. It needs an agreement which provides for the ability to roster a clerk for an 05.00 start on one in every ten duties. The Company, in order to achieve adequate coverage for its operations at a cost effective level are seeking that the Court recommends that the Agreement be changed accordingly.
The overriding concern of all parties in this dispute must be to maintain the viability of the airline in an increasingly competitive market. This imposes an imperative on both sides to ensure that the Company is in a position to respond to customer needs. In that regard the airline is clearly in urgent need of a significantly greater degree of flexibility in rostering for 05.00 starts than is currently available.
From an industrial relations perspective, the Court cannot ignore the fact that in 1993, following the Court's Recommendation LCR13744 which provided for the introduction of early starts, the Company freely agreed to the restrictions which are now causing difficulty. In the Court's view it is now primarily the responsibility of the parties themselves to negotiate and introduce appropriate amendments to their agreement which reflect the present and developing trends in modern air travel.
In all the present circumstances the Court accepts that the type of changes required by the Company are reasonable and should be conceded. However, the Court is not satisfied that sufficient efforts have been made by the parties to negotiate a realistic basis on which they can be introduced. The Court is of the view that further negotiations should take place at conciliation with a deadline of 8 weeks for final agreement. It is also the view of the Court that both parties will be required to modify significantly their stated positions as put at the hearing if these negotiations are to be successful.
Should the dispute remain unresolved at the end of the 8 week deadline it may be referred back to the Court.
The Court so recommends.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
13th September, 1999______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Fran Brennan, Court Secretary.