INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
ABBOTT IRELAND LIMITED, COOTEHILL
- AND -
TECHNICAL, ENGINEERING AND ELECTRICAL UNION
Chairman: Ms Jenkinson
Employer Member: Mr Keogh
Worker Member: Mr O'Neill
1. Pay parity
2. Abbott Ireland Limited has 5 manufacturing plants in Ireland. The claim concerns 13 craft-workers in Cootehill and is for pay parity with craft workers in the Sligo and Donegal plants. The Cootehill plant manufactures infant nutritional products, while Sligo and Donegal manufacture disposable hospital products. The claim has been ongoing for 20 years.
The last pay agreement between the parties was concluded on the 28th of February, 1998. The Union made its claim for pay parity in May, 1998. On the 23rd of July, 1998 the Company made an offer which would provide for an increase of 11% over 36 months along with other improvements, including V.H.I., sick-pay and leave. The Union claims that with the 11% increase the rates of pay for the craftsmen in the 3 plants would be as follows:
This would leave a disparity of £67.17 between Sligo and Cootehill, and a disparity of £48.75 between Donegal and Cootehill (there was some disagreement between the parties as to the exact differences). Following a ballot, the Company's offer was rejected.
On the 29th of October, 1998, the Company made a further offer as follows:
"In lieu of the company offer on VHI the company is prepared to increase the base pay of all craftsmen by £5 per week with effect from 1st of January, 1999."
The offer was rejected as the Union believed that it would result in the workers losing £5 in VHI benefits.
The dispute was referred to the Labour Relations Commission and a conciliation conference took place in 1999. As agreement could not be reached, the dispute was referred to the Labour Court on the 8th of July, 1999, in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act 1990. A Labour Court hearing took place on the 9th of March, 2001, the earliest date suitable to the parties.
3. 1. The workers in the 3 plants are equally qualified and should be paid the same or, at least, similar wages. The discrepancy at present is too great. The Union has been pursuing this claim for almost 20 years.
2. The Company's claim that wages in the Cootehill plant compare favourably with craftworkers in the area is not a valid argument. Firstly, comparisons should be with their fellow Abbott workers and secondly, figures from an IBEC National Survey from September, 2000, show that wages in the food industry in the region are higher than Cootehill.
4. 1. The Cootehill plant is in a different industry to the other 2 plants, and there has never been a pay link between the 3 plants. Conditions in the 3 plants also differ, with the Cootehill workers having a standard 38 hour week (as against 39 hours in Sligo) and better sick pay and overtime rates.
2. The Company's offer of pay increases of 11% over 36 months with improvements in benefits was well in excess of Partnership 2000.
3. The Company has to remain competitive with the local industries. If it had to concede the Union's claim it would have significant cost for the Cootehill plant and would result in significant knock-on effects in the other plants.
Having carefully considered all aspects of this case, the Court does not recommend parity of pay between craftsmen at Cootehill with other craftsmen employed by the Company. However, the Court does recommend that there should be a narrowing of the gap between the differing rates paid to craftsmen. Therefore, the Court recommends that the offer of 29th October, 1998, to increase the base rate by £5.00, should be made unconditional (i.e. not linked to VHI). The Court recommends that this offer should be accepted by the Union in full and final settlement of this claim.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
22nd March, 2001______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Ciaran O'Neill, Court Secretary.