INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
VAN DEN BERGH FOODS
(REPRESENTED BY THE IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Ms Jenkinson
Employer Member: Mr Keogh
Worker Member: Mr O'Neill
1. 1. Sick Pay; 2. Pension Scheme; 3. Permanent Status; 4. Compensation for loss of earnings; 5. Merchandisers; 6. Workloads/Van drivers.
2. The Company is part of the Unilever Group. It manufactures and distributes a wide range of food products. It has warehouses in Clonshaugh, Rathfarnham and Ballymount along with a network of depots throughout the country. It employs approximately five hundred people.
The Union has submitted a claim as outlined above and states that some of the issues have been on the agenda in terms of local negotiations for the past number of years. The Union is seeking the follows:-
The Union is seeking a service related sick pay scheme to give long service employees an equivalent of up to six months full pay as follows:-
0-5 years service - 6 weeks' full pay less social welfare plus 6 weeks' half pay
6-10 years service - 13 weeks' full pay less social welfare
11-15 years service - 13 weeks' full pay plus 13 weeks' half pay
16+ years service - 26 weeks' full pay
The Company claims that the current sick pay scheme has a facility to extend the period of cover beyond the six week period. It states that this facility is availed of regularly. However, it was prepared to increase cover to six weeks' full pay plus six weeks' at half pay. The Union rejected this offer.
Union - Pension Scheme
The Union is seeking improvements in the present scheme by way of the inclusion of rostered overtime, commission and bonus in the definition of pensionable pay. It also wants the state pension off-set to be reduced and the "death in service/death in retirement" to be improved.
The Company states that the current pension scheme is the Unilever pension scheme which applies to all permanent employees in all the Unilever companies in Ireland. It claims that it has made a number of improvements to the pension scheme over the years and that a valuation of the scheme is currently in progress to assess what improvements, if any, can be made.
Union - Permanent Status
The Company employs approximately one hundred and fifty temporary workers. The Union is seeking that these workers be re-classified as permanent part-time employees with full eligibility for pension, sick pay, bonuses etc. It also wants to have temporary staff who have a year's service made permanent. The Company made an offer in relation to this claim but it was rejected by the Union.
Union - Compensation for loss of earnings
As a result of the decision by the multiples to go over to central warehousing, the level of commission earned by five van drivers has reduced. The Union is seeking compensation for this loss. The Company rejected this claim on the basis that the loss arose from a decision taken which was outside its control.
Union - Merchandisers
The current rate of pay for this group of workers is £142 plus £38 commission plus £26 lunch allowance. The Union is seeking a basic rate of £186 per week while maintaining the commission arrangement. The Company offered a 5½% increase on the basic rate. It also offered to put in an incremental scale raising the rate to £155 and then £163. The Union rejected this offer.
Union - Workload/Van drivers
The Union is seeking a restructuring of the drivers duties/responsibilities so that their work is completed within a 39/40 hour week. Any hours worked in excess of 39/40 hour period to be paid as overtime or in some other form of enhanced commission arrangement.
The Company claims that it has had detailed discussions with the Union at local level on this issue and offered a 5½% increase to resolve this claim but it was rejected by the Union.
As no agreement was possible between the parties the dispute was referred to the Labour Relations Commission. A conciliation conference was held on the 16th of March, 1999 but no agreement was reached. The dispute was referred to the Labour Court on the 8th of October, 1999 under Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. The Court investigated the dispute on the 20th of December, 1999.
Sick Pay Scheme
3. 1. The Union is seeking a substantial improvement in the sick pay scheme for its members, similar to that currently enjoyed by staff members.
2. The actual cost to the employer would be minimal as the maximum benefit available would only apply to members with long service.
4. 1. The Company offered to improve the current sick pay scheme but this was rejected by the Union.
2. The current scheme provides a facility to extend the period of cover beyond six weeks which is availed of on a regular basis.
5. 1. The pension scheme in the Company is seriously deficient and needs to be improved.
2. Overtime, commission and bonus payments should all be included when calculating pension entitlements.
3. There is no reason why a successful company like Van Den Berg Foods should not have in place a more attractive pension scheme.
6. 1. The current pension scheme is in line with similar type schemes in the industry. The Company has made improvements to the scheme over the years.
2. This is the Unilever Pension Scheme and any changes to it will impact on other companies in the group who are not represented by this claim.
3. The pension scheme is currently being examined by actuaries, and until this is completed, no changes will be made to the scheme.
7. 1. The Union wants all temporary staff, with more than one year's service, to be made permanent.
2. Some of the temporary staff concerned have up to fifteen years' service, and work up to eleven months of the year.
8. 1. The seasonal nature of the business requires a level of temporary workers.
2. The Company must remain competitive or it will lose out to its competitors. The employment of the temporary workers gives it that advantage.
9. 1. The Union is seeking a substantial increase in the basic rate of pay for merchandisers while maintaining the present commission arrangement.
10. 1. The claim is cost increasing and is, therefore, outside the terms of Partnership 2000.
2. The Company has made an offer to increase the rate of pay for merchandisers structured over a three year period.
Compensation for loss of earnings
11. 1. Some of the Company's major customers are changing to centralised distribution, which will result in a loss of earnings for our members which should be compensated for.
2. While management accept that there will be losses, they are refusing to apply the long established formula within the employment of three times the annual losses.
12. 1. The losses have occurred as a result of external decisions and not from any internal re-organisation initiated by the Company.
2. The Company is not benefiting from these changes and will, in common with other suppliers, lose margin in the context of the new operation.
Workloads for sales people
13. 1. The Union wants the duteis of sales people restructured so that their work can be completed in a 39/40 hour working week.
2. Hours worked in excess of eight hour per day should be paid as overtime or on the basis of enhanced commission payment.
14. 1. The Company undertook a re-routing exercise which has resulted in a reduction of seven routes nationally. As a result, the calls which a salesperson has to make has been reduced.
2. The Company is introducing roll on roll off cages in the selling operation. This will result in a significant time saving for sales people.
The Court is seriously concerned at the lack of discussion on many of the points raised in this case. There appeared to be misunderstanding over many points and it is evident to the Court that further discussion should have taken place before these issues were referred to the Court. The Labour Court is the"Court of last resort"and should be used as such, not as a form of conciliation or as an arbitration system coming down in favour of one side or the other.
On the issues of permanency of temporary workers and the workload of van salespersons, there appears to be a lack of understanding on both sides of each others respective position, the Court recommends that these issues should be referred back to the Industrial Relations Officer.
As these issues have not been substantively discussed at local level, the Court recommends that the parties should revert back to conciliation and should, in the first instance, attempt to resolve the dispute at that level.
The pension scheme is currently under examination, the Court recommends that the parties should await the outcome of this examination and at that point both sides should review the scheme within the context of Partnership 2000.
With regard to the other issues in dispute, the Court recommends as follows:-
- Merchandisers rates of pay and conditions- This claim is outside Partnership 2000, therefore, the Court is not in a position to recommend an increase in the rates of pay. However, it hereby recommends that the Company's offer of a three year scale should be accepted by the Union.
- Sick Pay Scheme- It appears to the Court that with the operation of the discretionary element of the sick pay scheme, to alter the scheme would be of no substantial benefit to the employees. The Union pointed out to the Court that it is not satisfied with the uncertainty attached to the discretionary aspect of the scheme. Therefore, the Court recommends that if after a period of two years from the date of this recommendation, the discretionary element is considered to have operated in an unfair manner, the Court will review the situation, if it is referred back.
- Compensation for loss of commission- The Court rejects this claim for compensation for the loss of commission which may arise as a result of changes which have been imposed upon the Company by its major customers. The Company cannot control the losses which may arise due to this decision by its major customer.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
18th January, 2000______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Larry Wisely, Court Secretary.