INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
NATIONAL FURNITURE MANUFACTURERS ASSOCIATION
(REPRESENTED BY THE CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY FEDERATION)
- AND -
BUILDING AND ALLIED TRADES' UNION
Chairman: Ms Jenkinson
Employer Member: Mr Pierce
Worker Member: Mr O'Neill
1. Basic pay.
2. The Union's claim is for an increase in basic pay on behalf of approximately 600 workers employed in the furniture manufacturing industry. The claim is for parity with craft rates in the construction industry. The National Furniture Manufacturers Association (NFMA) is comprised of approximately 45 companies who are represented by the Construction Industry Federation.
The claim was served on the employers in May 2000 and a number of meetings were held at local level. The issue was deferred until after national negotiations on the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness (PPF). The issue was then the subject of a conciliation conference under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission on the 17th of November 2000. As agreement was not possible, the dispute was referred to the Labour Court in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. The Court investigated the dispute on the 15th of February 2001.
3. 1. The Irish furniture industry is a dynamic, modern and successful industry, both at home and abroad. However, the present furniture craft rate is over £90 less than the average industrial wage.
2. In 1999 the total domestic furniture market was worth an estimated Ir£650 million, of which Ir£450 million was generated in the Republic. It was expected to grow by 20% in the year 2000, and a further 11% in the year 2001.
3. Historically, the Irish furniture industry has looked to the construction industry for comparison with regard to rates of pay. However, that relationship ended in 1991 and the claimants have seen their relative position decline sharply, while the industry has derived enormous benefit from their skill, co-operation and commitment.
4. The industry has benefited from a booming economy, unprecedented house sales and a skilled, co-operative, low paid workforce. The employers have failed to acknowledge the contribution of the workforce and have made no offer at all for a pay increase. The Union is seeking parity with the construction industry craft rate on an agreed phased basis.
4. 1. The Union's claim is for a 66.6% pay increase i.e. from £227.52 per week to £379.08 per week. In addition to their basic pay the claimants receive an attendance allowance of £17.20 per week and in most cases a productivity bonus, which varies from company to company, but is in the region of £40 per week.
2. There is no basis for comparing the wage structure of the furniture manufacturing industry to the construction industry, which is covered by a Registered Employment Agreement. There is no similarity in the conditions of employment.
3. The members of the NFMA are in the main small, family owned companies that are not comparable with construction firms and cannot sustain additional costs. They did not expect the amounts agreed under PPF to be quite so high, but they have honoured the terms of the PPF. Any further increase in costs would put a severe strain on these companies.
4. The increase in the number of new houses being built has had minimum impact on the indigenous furniture manufacturing industry. Most first time buyers have limited budgets and purchase low cost furniture which has been imported from the Far East. Over 70% of furniture bought in Ireland is imported from Far Eastern countries.
5. The Union, as a member of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, has accepted the PPF. Therefore, the present claim is in breach of its terms.
The Court has given consideration to all aspects of this claim. Both parties involved in this case have signed up to and are bound by the terms of the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness (PPF). Under that agreement the Court has been given the task of implementing its agreed terms. Therefore, the Court is precluded under Clause 11 from conceding this claim.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
12th March, 2001______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Dympna Greene, Court Secretary.