INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 2001
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
(REPRESENTED BY IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Ms Jenkinson
Employer Member: Mr McHenry
Worker Member: Ms Ni Mhurchu
1. Full pension for certain seasonal workers.
2. The dispute concerns approximately 20 workers who are employed on a seasonal basis at the Company's Monaghan plant. Seasonal workers currently have access to the Company's pension scheme based on the number of days they work in any year. The Union is seeking that a cut off point of 9 months for all seasonal workers would apply and would be credited with full pension element for the 12 month period. The Company rejected the claim. At local level, negotiations the Union put forward the following proposal:-
(1) All staff would contribute to the pension scheme over a period of 9 months.
(2) The calculation of pension entitlement for all staff would be based on their contributions for that 9 month period.
(3) Worker's contributions would remain as per the agreed pension scheme. This would have the effect of ensuing that any worker who was absent for a period not exceeding 3 months would be credited with a full pension contribution for that year.
The proposal was rejected by the Company. The dispute was referred to the Labour Relations Commission. A conciliation conference was held on the 28th of June, 2001. Agreement was not reached. The dispute was referred to the Labour Court by the Labour Relations Commission on the 14th of August, 2001. The dispute was received in the Court on the 14th of August, 2001. A Court hearing was held in Cavan on 28th of November, 2001.
3. 1. Partnership 2000 and the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness provided for improvements to existing pension schemes. The Union's proposal would ensure that all workers are treated equally and fairly.
2. Employees in the dairy section are disadvantaged by being categorised as seasonal workers.
3. The Union's proposal would ensure that all workers will receive full pension benefits where workers are absent for a period not exceeding 3 months.
4. The affected workers will be paying the full cost of their portion of contributions to the pension scheme.
5. Many companies make deductions over a shorter period to ensure that workers maintain full contributions and benefits.
6. If the Company's plans are realised and the Dairy Department should not have any lay offs in the future, the Union proposal will not be a financial cost to the Company.
7. Concession of the claim will not lead to relativity claims.
4. 1. The current scheme is deemed satisfactory and has been offered as benefit to all employees. A number of improvements were introduced in April, 2001.
2. The majority of the seasonal employees work most of the year and thus are able to access the benefits based on service.
3. There is an AVC scheme available which could be used by individuals who wish to bolster their pension and this is widely taken up by all sections in the Company.
4. Full time workers would be treated unfairly as the seasonal workers would receive additional benefit that they were not receiving.
5. The granting of additional benefit would mean additional costs to the Company.
The Court has given serious consideration to the claim for full pension rights for some seasonal workers. While it is commendable that workers have shown such an interest in the pension scheme as to wish to voluntarily contribute for a period when they will not be working, to concede the claim would entail a major cost on the scheme, in terms of employer contributions and back funding. The scheme which has recently been improved so as to enhance pension benefit, also contains an additional Voluntary Scheme, which will allow employees to top up their benefit in a tax efficient manner.
The Court is satisfied that the seasonal workers pension scheme, as operated in this Company is in line with similar schemes. The Court does not, therefore, recommend concession of the claim. However, the Court recommends that the parties should discuss the scheme and its benefits with the seasonal workers and fully explore the benefits, which can accrue. This exercise should, if possible, be carried out jointly with experts from both sides.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
10th December, 2001______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Tom O'Dea, Court Secretary.