INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS IRELAND LIMITED
- AND -
NATIONAL UNION OF JOURNALISTS
Chairman: Ms Jenkinson
Employer Member: Mr Keogh
Worker Member: Mr O'Neill
1. House agreement - productivity claim.
2. The Union represents 223 full-time permanent and 40 freelance journalists who are employed on the Irish Independent, Sunday Independent and Evening Herald newspapers. In March 2000 the Union submitted a claim for a substantial pay increase and other benefits under Chapter 9, Partnership 2000 and Framework 1 of the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness (P.P.F.).
The parties agreed to negotiate a new House Agreement to replace the existing one and appointed an independent third party as Chairman. He issued his proposals for a new Agreement in September 2000 which, although recommended for acceptance by the Branch Committee, were rejected by the NUJ Chapel. The Chairman was then requested to issue a recommendation which was also rejected by the Chapel.
Subsequent local negotiations failed to resolve the dispute and the issue was referred to the Labour Relations Commission. At conciliation the Union outlined its claim as follows: a 15% pay rise, maternity leave to be increased to 20 weeks, a meal allowance of £8.74 to be extended to all staff, an increase of the publication allowance from £44 every four weeks to £99.20 every four weeks, in addition to all items already offered by the Company (details to the Court).
Agreement was not possible at conciliation and the dispute was referred to the Labour Court on the 5th of January 2001 in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. The Court investigated the issue on the 30th of January 2001.
3. 1. The proposed Agreement was rejected in two secret ballots because it provided no overall pay increase and altered fundamentally the consultation and agreement procedure. Currently, change cannot be introduced until the Chapel accepts it, while the proposal was that change could be introduced after consultation and worked under protest, if necessary, pending an appeal under the I.R. procedures.
2. The proposed Agreement would hand the Company the key to vastly increased productivity and profits. Eminent stockbrokers forecast profit growth of £10 million to £12 million per year for the Irish operation with the introduction of the new colour printing press at Citywest. However, there is no mechanism for journalists to share in this profit growth.
3. The proposed deal commits journalists to consider a new consultation procedure, to more work on larger papers with less staff, to greater productivity and production flexibility, to acceptance of live colour, no demarcation, absorbing work formerly done by printers and an acceptance of on-going technology change. These changes fully justify the Union's claim for an overall pay increase, pension indexation, the elimination of an 11% differential, family friendly policies and improved allowances and benefits.
4. 1. From the beginning both parties agreed that any and all cost increasing claims must be resolved within the context of the terms of the P.P.F.. The Company initiated change proposals to off-set the costs proposed by the Union by putting forward procedures and specific provisions that will allow greater flexibility in its operations, but not specifically greater 'productivity' from its journalists.
2. The Union is claiming a lunch allowance for sub-editors. The provisions governing such an allowance specify that an individual must be away from his/her work place for more than five hours. Sub-editors, like the 300 other staff who work in-house, do not qualify.
3. The Company has accepted Labour Court recommendation LCR15915 and will negotiate, on the basis of full reciprocation, pension indexation. The cost for back service alone for all NUJ staff is £2.7 million, with a cost of £80,000 per annum ongoing thereafter.
4. Since 1987 three major agreements have been negotiated and paid for. The journalists are in receipt of 15% over and above normal wage awards, that is worth 20% today in compound terms. As a result of the millions of pounds invested by the Company in an editorial computerised publishing system, they have a much more efficient tool to carry out their duties. A 1997 review also resulted in an increase of 16.5% in the number of journalists employed.
5. The average number of pages produced by journalists between 1987 and 2000 has only risen by two pages per annum - from 43 to 45 pages. While editorial pages have increased by 52%, payroll costs have increased by 98% and other annual editorial costs have increased by 163%.
6. Pagination is driven and supported by advertising volume. This will remain the driving force behind product development. The facility will allow much more flexibility, will remove the volume and backlog at deadlines and will level work across the week. The proposed Agreement includes provisions for the continued use of flexible resources to support any product development.
7. The major principal change in technology that impacted on journalists' work took place in 1990, and to a lesser degree in 1994. The one remaining principal change for journalists is the drawing of shapes that make up pages directly on to a screen, instead of the current practice of drawing on paper and transferring it to a member of the I.P.G. who puts the layout on screen.
8. Flexibility is the norm in modern newspaper publishing. It is the Company's ambition to achieve it by agreement with all those concerned, but only if reason prevails. Productivity is defined as additional, not alternatives of the same general nature. There is no sustainable case for future productivity taking into account what is actually required and what is already provided for in current agreements. The Company believes that the terms on offer are reasonable and requests the Court to so recommend.
The Court has carefully considered all aspects of this case. The Union has put forward a claim for a substantial increase in pay based on past and future productivity. In an effort to respond positively the Company made a number of concessions within the terms of the proposed new House Agreement and sought a number of concessions in an effort to off set the extra costs involved in the offer. Two sets of proposals were put forward with a recommendation for acceptance from the Union. Both were rejected. The Company indicated to the Court that it is looking for greater flexibility in its operations and not greater productivity and were not prepared to go any further in their offer at the conciliation talks.
The Court is satisfied that the three agreements made since 1987 have rewarded journalists for their involvement in new technological developments. The proposed new House Agreement has been drawn up under the direction of an agreed facilitator and within the context of Chapter Nine of Partnership 2000 and Framework One of the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness. This proposed Agreement, which incorporated a number of concessions dealing with the Union's outstanding claims, was rejected by the Union who subsequently clarified certain issues and a compensation payment was then proposed to attempt to finalise the matter. Clarification and amended offers were made following a meeting on 6th October 2000, from which emerged jointly agreed amendments. These were subsequently rejected and the claim for a 15% productivity payment was articulated.
The Court is of the view that there is no justification for a substantial productivity based claim. The Court recommends that the revised House Agreement and clarifications should be accepted in their totality. In return the Court recommends that the compensation payments offered on 10th October 2000 should be increased to £2000 for permanent staff with freelance staff receiving the appropriate proportionate amounts. The Court also recommends that a further lump sum of £1000 (and proportionate amounts to freelancers) should be paid one year after acceptance and implementation of the new Agreement.
The Court notes that it is intended to deal with the issue of the introduction of a profit sharing scheme with the Group of Unions on a collective basis and the Court is of the view that this is the correct procedure for such a claim.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
16th February, 2001______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Dympna Greene, Court Secretary.