INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 2001
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
GUINNESS IRELAND (I.A.B. BREWERIES, BALLYFERMOT)
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Ms Jenkinson
Employer Member: Mr Pierce
Worker Member: Ms Ni Mhurchu
1. Application of 10 added years to calculate the pension entitlements of 35 drivers.
2. The Union's claim is for the application of 10 added years to calculate pension entitlements for approximately 15 workers in the Ballyfermot Irish Ales Breweries (IAB) Depot, which is a subsidiary of Guinness Ireland. Other distribution centres include St. James Gate and Cork for Guinness Ireland, and various provincial depots for IAB.
In September, 1995, the Dublin and Cork Guinness depots agreed to Plan 2000 which paved the way for contracting-out the distribution fleet. The agreement was that as the drivers retired or left the business they would be replaced by contractors. Early retirement terms were available which included the 10 added years to the pension entitlements. The Company's view is that drivers had to sign up in 1995 and depart before the 31st of December, 2000. The terms were only available until that date.
In October, 1996, IAB Ballyfermot signed a deal similar to the Guinness depots which also included a number of cost reduction and flexibility measures. Again, the Company claims that the severance terms in this deal ended on the 31st of December, 2000. The Union, however, believes that the severance terms extended beyond that date, and this has resulted in the current dispute. (In March, 1996, the provincial drivers agreed a deal similar to the Ballyfermot depot).
Two similar claims to the current dispute were before the Labour Court. LCR16681 recommended that the agreement should terminate on the 31st of December, 2000, but, based on assurances given, that a number of individuals should be 'red-circled' and the agreed terms should continue to be available to them on an open-ended basis. LCR16850 rejected the claim.
The present dispute was referred to the Labour Relations Commission and a conciliation conference took place. As the parties did not reach agreement, the dispute was referred to the Labour Court on the 23rd of July, 2001, in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. A Labour Court hearing took place on the 12th of October, 2001.
3. 1. A letter from the Company dated the 16th of June, 1996, states that the year 2000 refers to the process by which the Company could "contract out the entire distribution network at year 2000." It is not an expiry date for the agreement. The letter went on to state "Personnel who remain at the end of year 2000 will work to the Contractor Company. . . .and will retain their terms and conditions of employment within the Guinness Ireland Group." A Company letter of the 13th of September, 1996, also confirms this.
2. Plan 2000 would not have been accepted had there been any doubt that terms and conditions would not obtain beyond year 2000, specifically for those under 50 years of age who would not qualify until after that date.
3. The Company attempted in January, 2000, to introduce an expiry date of the 31st of December, 2000. This was not part of the original agreement.
4. 1. The Union was made aware at a meeting on the 30th of August, 1996, that "there was no guarantee of voluntary parting terms beyond the Year 2000." This was clarified in a letter dated the 13th of September, 1996.
2. All employees were written to in late 2000, reminding them that the terms of the agreement were expiring in December, 2000, and encouraging them to avail of the option.
3. The Labour Court has already rejected 2 similar claims by other Unions, apart from a number of named individuals who were "red-circled" in LCR16681.
The Union claimed that there has been a breach of an existing agreement by the withdrawal of the up to 10 added years of service used to calculate pension entitlements for those employees over 50 years of age, who may in the future, opt for voluntary redundancy.
The Court is of the view that the package agreed under the Ballyfermot Agreement (1996 - 2000) was available for a definite period, expiring on the 31st of December, 2001.
In order to meet the employment needs at the time, the Company included a voluntary redundancy option for those employees covered by the agreement.
Appendix 5 of Ballyfermot Agreement (1996 - 2000) is a letter dated the 13th of September, 1996, to the Union giving clarification on queries raised by it, before the signing of the agreement. Included in that clarification is the following response to a query "There was no guarantee of voluntary parting terms beyond the Year 2000." The Court is of the view that this statement is clear and definitive and was never withdrawn in the case of these employees.
Therefore, the Court does not agree that there has been a breach of any existing agreement as claimed by the Union.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
25th October, 2001______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Ciaran O'Neill, Court Secretary.