INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 20(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1969
DUNDALK FOOTBALL CLUB
REPRESENTED BY DANIEL O' CONNELL AND SON (SOLICITORS)
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Ms Jenkinson
Employer Member: Mr Keogh
Worker Member: Ms Ni Mhurchu
1. Refusal to pay wages per contract
2. The dispute concerns a professional football player who signed a contract with Dundalk Football Club in August, 1998 to play in all football matches in which he was selected to play for the club from that date to the end of the playing season 1999/2000. A basic wage including travelling was agreed. The player had previously played for Sligo Rovers and was living in Sligo. It was agreed between the player and the Manager at the time that he would be responsible for his own training and could conduct his regime at Sligo. The arrangement worked well until the end of the 1998/99 Season at which time Dundalk were relegated to the First Division in May, 1999. All players including the claimant were advised in writing by the new Team Manager that pre-season training commenced on the 8thJuly, 1999 at Oriel Park, Dundalk. The claimant advised the Manager that he wished to continue his arrangement with the previous Manager where he was permitted to train with Sligo. The Manager stated that this was not acceptable and when the player contacted the club and stated that he would be reporting for the first game of the season he was told he would not be considered for selection because of his non attendance at training. Subsequently the cluub imposed a fine of two weeks' wages, at a later stage a further fine of two weeks' wages was imposed. The Union claimed that the player was unfairly treated. It sought to refer the issue to a Rights Commissioner for investigation. The Club objected to such a referral.
On the 5th April, 2000 theUnion referred a complaint to the Labour Court under Section 20(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1969 and agreed to be bound by the Court's recommendation. A Court hearing was held in Dundalk on the 8th November, 2000.
3. 1. In June, 1999 the claimant arranged with the new Manager to be excused from pre- season training for the first week based on family commitments. On contacting the Manager he was informed that it was pointless for him to return to the Club and that he should seek an alternative contract with either Sligo or Finn Harps. The player pointed out that he had a contract and a desire to play for Dundalk but was informed that he was not in the Club's plans.
2. The player continued to train in Sligo, turned up for games ready to play, and tried on numerous occasions to meet with either the Board or the Manager to no avail. Eventually at a meeting with the Board the claimant was advised that the Club did not want him and that he could go to another club if he wished. In August, 1999 the player received the letter imposing a fine of two weeks' pay for failure to report for squad training.No reference was made to the meeting of August, 1999 and the Club's assertion that he was surplus to requirements. A subsequent letter of October, 1999 purports to impose a further fine of two weeks. The claimant wrote to the Club in response outlining his position, his willingness to play for the Club on match days but that it was a physical impossibility for him to attend squad training in Dundalk three times weekly.
3. The Club, in a cynical fashion, set out to frustrate the claimant's contract and failed, during its operation to observe the terms (written and implied) as agreed. The Club breached the rules of natural justice and failed to honour its responsibility. The claimant is seeking compensation in the amount of £14,000.
4. 1. The Manager wrote to all players including the claimant prior to the start of the pre-season training for the 1999/00 season, advising that the squad training would be commencing on 8th July, 1999 at Oriel Park, Dundalk. Shortly afterwards the claimant contacted the Manager and advised him that it did not suit him to train in Dundalk as he lived in Sligo. The claimant was advised by the Manager that this was unacceptable. There was a requirement for all players to attend pre-season training in Dundalk (some travelled long distances to do so) and that he would not be considered for selection to play for the Club unless he attended those training sesions. The claimant made it clear that he did not intend to attend pre-season training and he did not do so.
2. When he reported for the opening match at Oriel Park the claimant was advised by the Manager that, unless he was prepared to attend training sesions he would not be considered for selection for the team. As the claimant made it clear that he did not intend attending any training sessions the Manager advised that in those circumstances it would be in his best interest to find another club and that Dundalk Football Club would not stand in his way.
3. The Club acted in a proper manner in imposing fines on the claimant in the light of his continuing failure to report for training. It did not pay wages to the player in respect of the 1999/ 00 season.
Having considered all aspects of this case the Court concurs with the view that given the relegation of the club, it was imperative on management to do everything in its power to ensure its survival and promotion.To this end it is understandable how the club endeavoured to enforce a strict training regime for all players for the upcoming season.
While the claimant had previously held a flexible condition of employment, agreed with his previous manager, which allowed him to train in Sligo in the previous season, this requirement was changed when the new manager took over in the new season. The claimant should have recognised this necessity.
However, the Court is of the view that it was imperative on the management of the club to formally communicate this message to all concerned, to outline the seriousness of the situation and to put in place mechanisms for the upturn of the club. In failing to achieve this level of communication, the Court is of the view that management did not abide by normal employment procedures when seeking a change to the claimant's conditions of employment. The Court is also of the view that the imposition of successive fines for breach of the rules was not in accordance with the spirit of its own rules.
The Court also takes the view that the claimant's admitted dedication to the club should have resulted in his compliance with the manager's request, particularly when faced with such a serious situatiion.
In the circumstances the Court recommends that the claimant should be compensated for the lack of procedural formality by the payment of a sum of £1000 in full and final settlement of this claim.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
20th November, 2000______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Tom O'Dea, Court Secretary.