INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 2001
SECTION 20(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1969
VIRGIN EXPRESS (IRELAND) LIMITED
- AND -
(REPRESENTED BY ROSARIO LEE & CO. SOLICITORS)
Chairman: Mr Flood
Employer Member: Mr Keogh
Worker Member: Mr O'Neill
1. Incident in Brussels, demotion & redundancy.
2. The worker was employed by the Company on the 20th of January, 1999, as a Line Training Captain. He was made redundant on the 2nd of April, 2001. There are 3 issues involved in the dispute:-
(1) Unilateral demotion: The worker claims that he was demoted from Line Training
Captain to Captain, thereby suffering a loss of income of £6,000 (7618.43 Euro) per
(2) Disciplinary matter: This relates to the worker's alleged behaviour on the 9th of April, 2000, when the worker was staying at the Belson Hotel in Brussels, together with 29 other Virgin Express crew members, and his room was interfered with. He was advised by the Company that the Hotel alleged that he had been drunk and disorderly, something the worker denies. Following a meeting with Company representatives, the worker was unilaterally disciplined by demotion to First Officer level for 1 month (suspended). This was despite assurance from the Company that no disciplinary action would take place until the Company had first supplied video and witness evidence.
(3) Redundancy: The worker was made redundant with effect from the 2nd of April, 2001, and was paid only statutory redundancy.
The worker referred his case to the Labour Court on the 24th of September, 2001, in accordance with Section 20(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1969. A Labour Court hearing took place on the 30th of October, 2001. The worker agreed to be bound
by the Court's recommendation. The Company did not attend the hearing or supply a written submission.
3. 1. Unilateral demotion: The action taken by the Company was unfair and in breach of all acceptable industrial relations practice and fair procedure.
2. Disciplinary matter: The worker was not drunk or disorderly as claimed. A number of other more serious incidents took place on the night but nobody else was disciplined. The Company claimed that it would supply video evidence and statements from 29 witnesses to back up its claim, but did not do so. As a result of the disciplinary measures taken, the Company unilaterally changed
the worker conditions of employment and rates of pay (details supplied to the Court).
3. The worker believes that most of the problems arose from an incident in Shannon when he was due to attend a training course. When it was discovered that no accommodation had been booked for him and others on the course, he spoke to a Company member. Following a meeting some days later, the Company member was dismissive of the worker and his abilities, and removed him from the training course. The worker believes that he was singled out for disciplinary action.
The Employer did not attend the Court hearing. Consequently, the only evidence before the Court was the written and oral submissions made by the claimant. Based on the information supplied, the Court finds as follows on the 3 issues in dispute: -
It would appear that the claimant’s demotion was implemented without any warning or indication about shortcomings in his performance. Indeed, the action seems to have been as a result of the claimant’s involvement in another dispute about payment for accommodation.
Based on the information supplied, the Court finds that the demotion was unfair.
In relation to the disciplinary matter, the Court accepts the evidence given that the Company undertook at a hearing with the claimant’s legal representative to produce video and witness evidence to substantiate its case. The Company, having adjourned the disciplinary hearing on that basis and without reconvening the disciplinary meeting, went ahead and implemented disciplinary action.
The Court finds this behaviour unacceptable and not in line with normal industrial relations practise.
The Court is satisfied, given the background to this case, that any redundancy paid should be calculated at the level of Line Training Captain salary.
In summary, the Court finds that the Company action was unfair and not in line with acceptable Industrial Relations practice.
The Court, therefore, recommends that the Company pay the claimant compensation of £7,000 (8888.17 Euro) for loss of income due to his unilateral demotion, and £5,000 (6348.69 Euro) compensation for its action in disciplining him unfairly. In addition, the Court recommends the removal of any reference of the disciplinary action from the claimant’s personnel file.
On the claim for redundancy payment, the Court recommends that the Company pays the claimant 3½ weeks’ pay per year of service exclusive of statutory payment.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
13th November, 2001______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Ciaran O'Neill, Court Secretary.