INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
MERCK SHARP AND DOHME (IRELAND) LIMITED
(REPRESENTED BY THE IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Ms Jenkinson
Employer Member: Mr McHenry
Worker Member: Ms Ni Mhurchu
1. Once-off payment for additional equipment.
2. The Company manufactures bulk pharmaceutical products and employs 440 employees at its plant in Ballydine, Clonmel, Co.Tipperary. In 1997, the Company commenced construction of a new factory known as Factory 03, which went into operation in May 1999. Associated with this, new equipment was installed in a number of support areas in the existing plant, including the utilities area and the boilerhouse.
In April 1998, an employee, who is employed as a Grade A Boilerhouse Attendant, submitted a claim for once-off monetary compensation for operating the new equipment in the boilerhouse. His claim was rejected by the Company, who were also in dispute with the Union regarding the allocation of work between Grade A & B operatives and manning levels. The latter issues were resolved at a conciliation conference under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission in July 1998 and the Union reserved the right to pursue the employee's claim at a later date.
In October 1999, the claimant re-activated his claim for once-off monetary compensation and the issue was the subject of a conciliation conference on the 24th of March 2000. Both parties agreed to carry out studies of the new equipment in the boilerhouse area and to meet again to review the findings. The meeting failed to produce agreement and the Union requested referral to the Labour Court in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. The dispute was referred on the 9th of February 2001 and the Court investigated the issue in Clonmel on the 10th of April 2001, the earliest suitable date.
3. 1. In July 1998, the Union reserved the right to pursue a claim for monetary compensation for Grade A workers if it felt justified.
2. The new equipment in the boilerhouse area has added substantially to the worker's responsibility and workload. He is now responsible for 50% more equipment than he had been for the previous twenty two years.
3. The claimant has operated the new equipment for three years without recognition in terms of grading or monetary compensation. All other areas of the plant that are associated with Factory 03 have benefited from increased manning levels, except for the boilerhouse area.
4. The Union's Industrial Engineer found that there was a significant increase in the equipment in the boilerhouse area, but he could not find evidence of a trend of once-off payments for the introduction of new equipment. However, in 1997, a once-off payment was made by the Company to workers in the Control Room Attendants Grade who had claimed upgrading.
4. 1. The Company carried out a detailed study of the boilerhouse area. The new equipment is the most automated available and has virtually no impact on the claimant in terms of monitoring or operating time. The study shows an increase of 150 minutes per week for some functions and a decrease of 225 minutes per week on others.
2. Once-off payments to compensate for the introduction of new equipment are not the norm and there is no justification for this or any other form of payment in the present case. Furthermore, the Union's Industrial Engineer did not find justification for a once-off payment.
3. The Company/Union agreement commits the Union to co-operation with new technology as this is vital to the continued success of the operation. New and upgraded equipment is constantly being introduced and the Company has paid 5% above the terms of the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness and has introduced improved benefits in return for ongoing co-operation.
4. Most groups were affected by the Factory 03 project. Manning levels were increased where appropriate to deal with increased workload, but once-off monetary compensation was not paid. Concession of the claim would set a de-stabilising precedent for industrial relations at Ballydine and would negatively impact on competitiveness.
Having given careful consideration to all aspects of this claim, the Court can see no basis for the claim and, therefore, does not recommend that a once-off payment should be paid to the claimant.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
25th April, 2001______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Dympna Greene, Court Secretary.