INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 20(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1969
WELLMAN INTERNATIONAL LIMITED
(REPRESENTED BY IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
MANUFACTURING, SCIENCE, FINANCE
Chairman: Mr Flood
Employer Member: Mr Pierce
Worker Member: Mr O'Neill
1. Union recognition.
2. The Company, which is based in Mullagh, Co. Cavan, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Wellman Inc., of New Jersey, USA, and is involved in the manufacture of staple fibres, made principally from polyester, which it sells throughout Europe. The Company employs a staff of 400, comprising 215 process operators (represented by SIPTU), 30 fitters (AEEU) 12 electricians (TEEU) 23 laboratory technicians (MSF) and 120 clerical, administrative, supervisory and managerial staff. The Union, MSF, which already represents process controllers (on foot of Labour Court Recommendation LCR12961, August, 1990) and technicians and some workers in the staff/administration area in relation to individual issues, is seeking recognition and representation rights in respect of all clerical, administrative, supervisory and managerial staff. The Union sought the assistance of the Labour Relations Commission in relation to the matter. However, the Company declined the Commission's offer of assistance on the grounds that it has traditionally dealt with the employees involved on an individual basis and does not believe it to be appropriate that the relationship be changed.
The Union referred the dispute to the Labour Court, in March, 2000, in accordance with Section 20(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1969. The Court carried out its investigation on the 24th August, 2000, the earliest date suitable to both parties.
3. 1. While the Union has negotiation rights for process controllers and technicians, it also has individual members in the staff/administration area, including some technician/process controllers who were promoted to staff grades and wished to retain their MSF membership. It was agreed that the Union would continue to represent those individuals, but only in cases involving redundancy and disciplinary issues. However, the situation has changed in the last 2 years. Due to unilateral changes in terms and conditions of employment introduced by management in the staff/administration area, many more workers in this category have approached the Union to represent them and to protect and enhance their conditions of employment. The changes introduced include new time management systems, work changes, changes to contracts, job-enrichment without compensation. These are issues which need to be addressed in a structured negotiating environment.
2. The Union has embraced the development of a partnership forum with the Company which includes partnership training courses. Such a forum allows the parties to understand and develop partnership, the quality of working life and communication skills. As an extension of that concept, the Union is seeking recognition and negotiating rights in respect of the category of workers concerned.
4. 1 The Company operates in a highly competitive global marketplace and its policy has always been to stay close to its customers and respond speedily and with maximum flexibility to new developments there. This policy has been a vital part of the Company's success over many years and specifically in its ability to return to profit swiftly following a difficult period in late-1998/1999 . The willingness of management, administrative and supervisory staff to carry out necessary actions without undue delay and to participate in communicating the urgency of necessary changes to the rest of the workforce was crucial in turning around the adverse performance of late-1998/1999.
2. In the longer term, the Company's strategy is dependent on flexibility and the willingness and ability of employees to respond positively to the need for change. Implementation of new strategy is dependent on capital expenditure approved by the Company's US parent. Following a dispute in 1996, the parent company pays close attention to the evolution of industrial relations at the Mullagh site. Changes to representation arrangements that could adversely the affect ability to execute Company strategy would undoubtedly impact on the capital sanction process.
3. Trade union involvement in the Company already inhibits flexibility. With 4 different unions involved, the introduction of changes to work practices are inevitably inhibited by demarcation issues and inter-union rivalries. Any change to union representation arrangements that would add additional demarcations would damage the Company's future prospects.
4. Staff in administrative and supervisory functions are the personification of the Company in their area of responsibility. The notion that some members of this group could be negotiated for collectively raises the prospect of a potential conflict of interest.
The Court is conscious that provision was made in the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness to give effect to the implementation of the report of the High Level Group on the question of the right to bargain.
The Court recommends that this claim be progressed as per the procedures put in position as a result of implementation of the Report of the High Level Group.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
31st August, 2000______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Michael Keegan, Court Secretary.