INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
FAIR OAK FOODS LIMITED
(REPRESENTED BY IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Ms Jenkinson
Employer Member: Mr Pierce
Worker Member: Ms Ni Mhurchu
1. Introduction of video cameras.
2. The dispute concerns the installation of video cameras by the Company in production areas of its meat processing plant in Clonmel, Co. Tipperary. The Company claims that the need for such cameras has arisen due to the number of occupational injuries and claims at the plant in recent years, some of the injuries involving cutting with butchers' knives, allegedly, deliberately inflicted by a colleague, or self-inflicted. The Company considers that the frequency and nature of the claims justifies a suspicion of fraud. The Company states that the installation of video cameras is at the insistence of its insurers who share the Company's concern about the claims profile, and who would withdraw insurance cover in the event of the non-instalment of video cameras. The Company would, accordingly, be forced to cease production. (As a secondary matter, the Company had expressed concern at stock losses at the plant and had, consequently, installed video cameras in its stores areas and at entry and exit points, with the Union's agreement.)
The Union objects strongly to the proposed use of cameras in the production areas, claiming that this would represent an unwarranted and unnecessary intrusion on the workers. The Union holds that the bad accident record in recent years arose due to failings on the Company's part in terms of training and the issue of protective kit. The Union states that the addressing of those issues in recent months has resulted in a substantial decrease in the accident rate.
The dispute was the subject of a conciliation conference, under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission, at which agreement was not reached. The dispute was referred to the Labour Court, on the 17th April, 2000, in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. The Court Carried out its investigation into the dispute, in Waterford, on the 10th May, 2000.
3. 1. For the Company's insurance cover to be renewed, the insurers have insisted that security cameras be installed in production areas. In the circumstances, and in the absence of those cameras, the Company will be forced either to cease operation, or to operate without insurance. The only alternative is to comply with the conditions laid down by the insurers.
2. Although, perhaps, 20 years ago the use of cameras was a sensitive issue, their use is now commonplace, in the street, in offices and banks, in places of entertainment, etc., and, though not as common in factories, their use there is certainly not unknown.
3. Although the Union has expressed its total opposition, in principle, to the use of cameras, as required by the Company, it has failed to suggest any viable alternative and has failed to address the issue in any meaningful way.
4. There need be only occasional monitoring of filming, in the event of claims/accidents.
4. 1. The Company's decision to focus cameras directly on workers going about their daily business is opposed by the Union due to the unacceptability of the principle of cameras, and due to the unilateral manner in which the Company proceeded in regard to this issue.
2. Due to the fact that the Company is now conforming to Health and Safety requirements, in respect of the provision of protective sleeves and gloves, etc., it is now unlikely that individuals could inflict injury on one another, as alleged by the Company.
3. There is no proof that any members of staff were involved in deliberately causing injury and, even if they had been so involved, it is neither fair nor acceptable that all staff should be filmed while working.
4. The Company contention that there need only be occasional monitoring of filming is rejected. While the workers are being filmed at all, there is a fundamental invasion of privacy.
The Court has given consideration to all aspects of this claim. The Court recommends that the Company should make every effort to obtain employer liability insurance based on recent accident records rather than on past records.
In the event that the problem still exists (i.e., the insurance company's demanding that video cameras be installed in the workplace), this position must be made clear to the Union. The Union should then accept the Company guarantees that the use of video recordings will be restricted to viewing incidents where an accident has already occurred. A guarantee should be also given that the viewing of such recordings should only take place following an invitation to a shop steward or Union official to be present.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
6th June, 2000______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Michael Keegan, Court Secretary.