INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 2001
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
ANGLO IRISH BEEF PROCESSORS
(REPRESENTED BY THE IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
AMALGAMATED TRANSPORT AND GENERAL WORKERS' UNION
Chairman: Mr Duffy
Employer Member: Mr Keogh
Worker Member: Mr O'Neill
1. Discussions arising from Labour Court recommendation LCR16814.
2. On the 18th of May, 2001, the Labour Court issued recommendation LCR16814 concerning the issue of a possible enhanced redundancy package. The parties were advised to resume negotiations on the issue and, if agreement was not reached, to refer the issue back to the Court. The parties entered into discussions at local level and under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission in May and June, 2001. The Company stated that it would not decide whether to accept or to reject the Labour Court recommendation until ground rules relating to a possible enhanced severance package were agreed in advance (details to the Court). Some of the rules were non-contentious, but other items could not be agreed. As agreement was not possible, the Unions requested referral to the Labour Court in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. The Company agreed and the issue was referred to the Court on the 22nd of June, 2001. The Court investigated the dispute on the 28th of September, 2001, the earliest date suitable to the parties.
3. 1. The Unions' claim is for a reasonable severance package of four weeks' pay per year of service plus statutory for workers with one year's service who are laid off for a period of two months. The State provides a mechanism that can be triggered after four weeks, but in the context of a worthwhile agreement, it might be possible to extend that to approximately eight weeks.
2. The preconditions set out by the Company are such as to totally negate the benefits of any potential agreement. The meat processing industry has abused its position relative to its employees, in presuming that employees should indefinitely keep their skills available for twelve months of the year, even though they may be employed for only a portion of that year. This is another form of zero hours contract.
3. Employees must have the skill and training necessary to carry out any alternative work offered. The work must be for the same working hours and the same working week that the employee would normally be expected to work. The work should not cause him/her undue physical or mental stress, it should be on the same site, with the same employer, and should allow him/her to carry his/her normal rate of pay on a red-circled basis.
4. The Company's proposal to offset an employee's statutory redundancy against a minimalist claim of four weeks' pay per year of service is unreasonable. In addition, minimum notice should be paid. Given the Unions' modest claim for the ex-gratia payment, no ceiling should be applied and the two statutory entitlements should be separate from any lump sum that such ex-gratia payment might yield. Although it is normal for the ex-gratia arrangement to be subject to a ceiling of earnings up to retirement, the two statutory entitlements should not be subject to any such ceiling.
4. 1. The Labour Court accepted that the circumstances which led to the current lay offs were exceptional and that they should not in themselves be relied upon to support a claim for a severance package. However, the Company cannot accept or reject Labour Court recommendation LCR16814 until the ground rules have been agreed in advance. This must be done to enable the Company to evaluate the financial impact of a possible enhanced severance package.
2. There have been slight delays in reopening the Boning Halls, but Clones, Waterford and Bandon have now been reopened. The Cannery in Rathkeale remains closed, but it is imperative that the Cannery employees who were laid off should make themselves available for work in the Abattoir and Boning Hall. However, they have refused to return to work pending the outcome of this Labour Court hearing.
3. The employees who were laid off are general operatives and as such, are obliged under both the existing works rules and the flexibility agreement of October/November 1999 to work anywhere in a plant at management's discretion. In addition, concession of the Unions' claim would remove the employer's statutory right to refuse the claim on the basis of offering alternative work.
4. The Unions are seeking to force the Company to reward employees who no longer wish to work for the Company. The only issue that should be before the Court relates to the possibility of a need for lay offs in the future. The Unions should agree the proposed ground rules, enabling the Company to make a considered decision on LCR16814 and, therefore, clearing the way for discussions on a possible enhanced severance package and the circumstances under which a payment should be made.
The Court has noted the final position of the parties at conciliation on the structure of any redundancy package and recommends as follows in relation to each of the points on which agreement was not reached:
Duration of lay-off
The Court recommends that a minimum period of 6 months should apply.
Length of service
A service qualification of 2 years should apply.
The total amount paid to any individual under the scheme should not, in any circumstances, exceed the amount which they would have earned up to retirement.
Alternative available work
Employees should be required to accept any work which is commensurate with their skill and service and to which they could normally be assigned within the Company/Union agreement.
The terms of the scheme should not apply in such circumstances.
Payment in lieu of notice
In line with the statutory scheme, an entitlement to payment of notice should not arise where an employee terminates his/her employment in response to a lay-off.
Details of package
It is noted that no discussions have taken place between the parties on this issue. The Court recommends that on acceptance of this recommendation the parties should immediately commence negotiations on this issue alone. Should they fail to agree after a period of four weeks from the commencement of the negotiations, the matter may be referred back to the Court.
The inclusion or exclusion of the statutory payments in the proposed scheme should be dealt with in considering the details of the package.
Scope of the scheme
Consistent with the intention of the Court in recommendation LCR16814, the scheme should apply in respect of future lay-offs only.
The scheme should be reviewed after it has been in operation for a period of 2 years.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
22nd October, 2001______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Dympna Greene, Court Secretary.