INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 13(9), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1969
(REPRESENTED BY IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Mr Flood
Employer Member: Mr McHenry
Worker Member: Mr. Somers
1. Appeal by the Union of Rights Commissioner's recommendation IR704/99/GF.
2. The dispute concerns a worker who was issued with a final written warning after he had been reported by a supervisor for leaving the premises while on evening shift on the 10th of June, 1999. The Union claims that the worker was treated unfairly in that the Company's disciplinary measure was unduly severe. It claimed that there were extenuating special family circumstances which led to the workers action. His mother lived nearly, was very ill, and subsequently died.
The Company stated that the worker had been unable to provide a reasonable explanation as to why he was absent without authorisation on the 10th of June, and that he demonstrated a disregard for Company rules and regulations despite prior warnings that were issued to him. The Company claims it was being lenient in only issuing a final written warning to the worker.
The dispute was referred to a Rights Commissioner for investigation. On the 16th of February, 2000, the Rights Commissioner issued his recommendation as follows:
"While I accept that his personal circumstances were unfortunate, I cannot disagree with the action taken by management. However, I am recommending that the final written warning should be removed from his record after a period of six months".
On the 2nd of March, 2000, the Union appealed the recommendation to the Labour Court. The Court heard the appeal on the 23rd of May, 2000.
3. 1. The worker concerned had difficulty in remembering the exact details of the evening in question and if he left without permission, then he did so in error as an act of omission. Previously, he had requested and was granted permission for absence to visit his mother.
2. There is some reflection of concern in the Rights Commissioner's recommendation at the severity of Management's response, in that the Rights Commissioner reduced the length of stay of this warning on the worker's file to six months.
3. The Company introduced arguments relating to other disputed matters that are not part of this case including an incident (14th May, 1999) which was not part of any official record.
4. The last warning on the worker's record was written confirmation of a verbal warning. Management has jumped a stage of the procedures.
5. Management's view of this incident as gross misconduct is motivated by a concern about discipline regarding attendance on the back evening shift and the need to make an example of someone. It is not related to the facts on the particular evening in question but is in response to other concerns.
6. Reference by Management to other disputed matters which are separate and did not form part of the allegation or submission is unwarranted and unnecessary.
7. The worker has over twenty years service with the Company and views a final written warning with great concern.
8. In light of the actual circumstances of the occasion, the Union seeks the reduction in severity of any disciplinary warning that the Court might recommend.
4. 1. The action taken to discipline the worker was merited given the gravity of the situation and events in the six months prior to the 10th June, 1999.
2. He was issued with a verbal warning for unauthorised absence on the 18th of May, concerning an incident on the 14th of May, 1999. Within a matter of days from this first incident, he received a second verbal warning for attempting to manufacture overtime at an inflated premium.
3. Despite receiving these warnings by June, 10th, a little over three weeks since the first incident, he was found to be absent from work, again unauthorised and again involving him being clocked in and allegedly working overtime.
4 The Company believes that such repeated behaviour warrants dismissal, but agreed to postpone that on foot of representation from the Union, which now wishes the replacement final warning to be removed.
5. Leaving the site without permission is, in the Company's view, gross misconduct. The claimant is an experienced shift worker, with over five years of shift work with the Company. He knows the serious view the Company takes of such actions. He was a Shop Steward and also would have known the Company approach, from his experience as a Union representative.
6. The Rights Commissioner upheld the Company's view that any leniency required in this case had been given by the Company and that the final aspect of the warning was warranted.
The Court having considered the written and oral submissions finds no grounds for overturning the Rights Commissioner's recommendation.
The Court, therefore, upholds the Rights Commissioner's recommendation and rejects the appeal.
The Court so decides.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
30th May, 2000______________________
Enquiries concerning this Decision should be addressed to Tom O'Dea, Court Secretary.