INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
- AND -
Chairman: Mr Flood
Employer Member: Mr Pierce
Worker Member: Ms Ni Mhurchu
1. 1. Introduction of posts of responsibility.
2. Rates for canteens and restaurants.
3. Withdrawal of check-off.
2. The issues in dispute were processed through a procedural agreement reached in 1996 called "Agreement for resolving problems arising between management and staff at Dunnes Stores". Details of the Union's claims are as follows:
The Union is claiming the introduction of posts of responsibility which it claims is the norm across the retail sector and carries a 7½% differential on the top point of the incremental sales assistant scale. The Union is seeking a minimum rate of £7.31 per hour (+7½%) for those workers who fulfil the qualification criteria for a post of responsibility. The Company stated that it had its own management structures which operated efficiently and saw no requirement for the extra layer as proposed by the Union.
There are two catering divisions within the Company, the in-house staff canteens in all outlets and a number of public restaurants in certain outlets. Currently the Company pays workers who are General Assistants £5 per hour and Cook/Supervisors £5.50 - £6.50 per hour. The Union is claiming that the Sales Assistant scale should be applied to the canteen and restaurant workers. The Company stated that the existing rates were appropriate.
The check-off system of payment of Union dues has operated successfully since 1983 within the Company. In 1998 the Company decided that in future it would only facilitate the deduction of Union dues for workers with 3 months service or more with the Company. The Union wants the deduction restored from day one of the employment. The Company claimed that it was forced to make the change due to administration reasons.
The dispute was referred to the Labour Relations Commission. A conciliation conference was held on the 18th of November, 1999. No agreement was reached. The dispute was referred to the Labour Court by the Labour Relations Commission on the 3rd of February, 2000. A Court hearing was held on the 18th May, 2000.
3. 1. The criteria for qualification for such posts is well tested and accepted across the retail sector and the definition of post of responsibility forms part of the Grocery Joint Labour Committee Regulation Order.
"A person is designated to be the holder of a post of responsibility if he/she has been designated by the employer to be responsible for the work of other staff or for the operation of a shop or of a department within a premises"
2. The Union believes that there are a number of areas within the Company where staff are employed who meet the above criteria i.e. E.P.O.S. (Scanning/Technology), Fruit & Vegetable, Wines & Spirits, Cash Office, Garden Centre, Childrenswear Department, Creche.
4. 1. All jobs defined under the Grocery JLC as a post of responsibility are deemed Management positions within the Dunnes Stores group. Therefore, it is Management who are designated by the Company to be responsible for 'the work of other staff or for the operation of a shop or of a department within our outlets'. There are many different grades and specialist areas within the Management structure including junior trainee, department manager etc., all of which are clearly posts of responsibility and remunerated accordingly, but within a Management structure.
As an indication of the benefits to employees of the Dunnes Stores model, the JLC rate for a post of responsibility is £5.16 per hour, the Company's top rate for staff is £6.80 per hour.
2. All employees are encouraged to take up management positions. Indeed the Company's record in promoting staff to management positions speaks for itself. Today many of its senior management started in temporary and part time jobs with the Company. Once they are promoted to management they are designated responsibility for a department or for the work of others.
5. 1. Prior to December, 1999, the Company operated different pay scales for workers in its canteen and restaurant facilities. Following representations from the Union, the Company subsequently increased the rate to a fixed singular one of £5 per hour and no service scale. While this is an improvement it falls far short of the Union's claim for the Sales Assistant rate which increases by annual increments to £6.80 per hour.
2. Other retailers such as Tesco, Marks and Spencer, Clerys, Easons etc. pay their canteen and catering staff the Sales Assistants' scale or an equivalent scale. The Union is seeking such a scale for general assistants in the catering area.
6. 1. Dunnes Stores has rejected the Union's claim for the catering staff to receive the same rates of pay as the Sales Assistant on the basis that the two job roles are not comparable and therefore do not warrant the same rates of pay. The Court have also found previously that this in fact is the case both in Dunnes Stores and another major retailer.
2. In 1997, MANDATE took a claim for equal pay against Dunnes Stores,Douglas. The claimants were 6 Catering Employees and the comparators were 7 Sales Assistants. The Equallity Officer examined the work of the claimants under the headings of qualifications and training , skill, physical demands, mental effort, working conditions and responsibility. The Equality Officer did not find in favour of the claimants and stated "I find that the claimants do not have any entitlement to the same rate of remuneration as that paid by Dunnes Stores to each of the named comparators"
The Union appealed the recommendation to the Labour Court. The Court upheld the recommendation (DEP 9812 refers).
3. In a similar claim the Court in LCR 16288 (Roches Stores/MANDATE) rejected the Union's claim for the application of the sales assistant rate to catering staff.
4. The claim is cost increasing.
7. 1. The check off system of payment of union dues has operated successfully since 1983 within Dunnes Stores.
2. In May, 1998, the Company unilaterally decided that in the future it would only facilitate the deduction of union dues at source for employees with 3 months' service or more with the Company. It cited "administrative order" as the reason for this decision. The Company claim that "administrative reasons" are behind its decision; this is not credible. Before that date there had been no such issues raised with the Union. Obviously, as the Company has a legal responsibility to set up other deductions such as tax and PRSI from salaries of employees with less than 3 months service, therefore, the administration barrier of union deductions is no more or less than those other deductions.
3. The Union believes that Dunnes Stores made this decision for other reasons. It is a direct attempt to de-unionise the Company and to remove the opportunity for trade union representation from thousands and thousands of young Irish workers. The impact on trade union membership within Dunnes Stores since the move has been severe. The Company boasts an annual staff turnover in many locations of between 70% and 90%, and in many cases the majority of new entrants staying less than 3 months.
4. The Union seeks a return to the status quo with regard to the operation of Union check-off system which existed as per agreement since 1983 and that all workers should have the same access to this facility regardless of hours worked or length of service.
8. 1. Similar to other retail employers, Dunnes Stores is experiencing turnover levels amongst staff which were unheard of even a few years ago. This and the administrative effort required to deduct dues at source for such staff is significant and not productive.
2. Staff are not prohibited from joining MANDATE at any time.
3. Dunnes is not unique in its approach in this matter. Many other companies operate a system whereby no Union dues are deducted during probation periods which can be anything from six months and more. Dunnes Stores is limited to three months.
The Court having considered the written and oral submission made by the parties, recommends as follows on the issues in dispute:
1.Posts of Responsibility
While the structures and operations in similar companies are different to this Company, in relation to allocation and payment for responsibilities, the Court does not recommend concession of this claim, the effect of which would be an additional layer in the structure.
However, it is clear that in some posts, individuals believe they carry added responsibilities that are not acknowledged in their rate of pay.
While the Court does not recommend concession of the Union claim, it does recommend that the specific cases outlined above should be raised with the Company for consideration.
2.Rates for Canteen and Restaurant Staff
The Court does not recommend concession on the Union claim, as outlined, for Sales Assistant rate of pay to apply to Canteen and Restaurant staff, as it is not satisfied from the information supplied, that the roles are the same.
3.Withdrawal of Check Off
While accepting that there is an administrative workload involved, no valid reason was given for withdrawing the check off for those with less than three months service. The Court recommends that the previous facility in operation in the Company be restored.
The Court is concerned at the level of antagonism shown between the parties. The atmosphere prevailing cannot be in the best interests of the shareholder or the employees of such an organisation, and is certainly not conducive to achieving a good Industrial Relations climate. The Court would recommend to the parties to address this situation urgently in the interest of all the stakeholders in the business, if necessary, by using the assistance of an agreed third party.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
7th June, 2000.______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Tom O'Dea, Court Secretary.