INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 2001
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
NATIONAL BUS AND RAIL UNION
Chairman: Mr Duffy
Employer Member: Mr Carberry
Worker Member: Mr. Somers
1. Re-structuring (Guards and Ticket Checkers).
2. In April, 1997, the parties commenced negotiations on re-structuring the terms and conditions of employment of various categories of employees. Each group of employees had their own forum. However, as the Company proposed to amalgamate the grades of Guard and Ticket Checker into a new Train Conductor grade, they came together to form one group. This proposal was later withdrawn.
Historically, the basic rates of pay of Guards and Ticket Checkers were the same as those of Traffic Sorters, Mechanical Operators, Senior Depotpersons, Shunters and Signalpersons Category 2. As a result of the restructuring negotiations concerning Signalpersons Category 2, the Labour Court issued a recommendation, LCR16685, on the 27th of November, 2000. The Unions, on behalf of 80 Guards and 62 Ticket Checkers, are seeking the same rates of pay as those awarded to the Signalpersons Category 2, whose rates of pay are as follows:-
39 hour contract £22,033.15 (27,976.33 Euro)
43 hour contract £24,292.96 (30,845.70 Euro)
45 hour contract £25,422.87 (32,280.39 Euro)
48 hour contract £27,117.72 (34,432.40 Euro)
The Company's offer to existing Guards and Ticket Checkers is as follows:-
39 hour contract £18,233 (23,151.13 Euro)
43 hour contract £20,103 (25,525.54 Euro)
45 hour contract £21,038 (26,712.75 Euro)
48 hour contract £22,440 (28,492.92 Euro)
The Company also proposes to introduce a new six point incremental scale for new entrants which would have maximum points of £16,956 (21,529.68 Euro), £18,695 (23,737.75 Euro), £19,565 (24,842.43 Euro), and £20,869 (26,498.16 Euro) for working 39, 43, 45 and 48 hours respectively. The Company proposes to operate a new restructured rostering system providing for a five day week rostered over seven days, within a maximum average of 48 hours per week, together with additional flexibilities in work practices and deployment.
The parties were unable to reach agreement either at local level or at conciliation conferences under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission up to the 12th of June, 2001. The dispute was referred to the Labour Court on the 2nd of July, 2001, in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. The Court investigated the dispute on the 30th of July, 2001.
3. 1. The Guards and Ticket Checkers have been benchmarked with Signalpersons Category 2 through all productivity deals going back to 1976 and 1994. However, the Company's offer to the Guards and Ticket Checkers for similar hours is between £3,800.15 (4,825.20 Euro) and £4,677.72 (5,939.48 Euro) less than that paid to Signalpersons Category 2. This is a totally unrealistic offer.
2. The maximum of the proposed new six point pay scale for 48 hours is £20,869 (26,498.16 Euro), which means that new entrants would never reach the top rate offered to existing staff of £22,440 (28,492.92 Euro). This is unfair and unacceptable to other employees, particularly Depotpersons, who would promote into this grade. In fact, the pay scale should not be contained in the proposals as it does not apply to existing Guards and Ticket Checkers.
3. Nine Freight Guards receive a dangerous chemical allowance of 20.5% for the operation of ammonia trains. As they will continue to be engaged in that type of working, that allowance must continue to be paid or very substantial compensation should be made available. The Company must also reach agreement with 3 Guards who are attached to Dundalk Station. They are in receipt of an allowance equivalent to 23 hours divided equally between them for operating across the border into Northern Ireland.
4. The claim in respect of Ticket Checkers is justified and reasonable. They carry out a difficult and stressful job. They have to deal with difficult passengers, overcrowded trains, reduced manning levels and are basically being used as a mobile ticket office.
5. The Company proposes a daily minimum of 5 hours and a maximum of 12 hours. However, the Unions' claim is for a minimum of 6 hours and a maximum of 10 hours. The proposed 2 rest days should be on a rotating basis and should be linked in a fashion that would give 4 days off every couple of weeks. This already applies to Drivers, Signalpersons and Supervisors.
4. 1. The composite earnings packages on offer include a consolidation of existing premium payments e.g. shift allowance, overtime and Sunday/Public Holiday premiums. The proposed packages reflect the earnings, work patterns and change elements particular to this group of employees.
2. In the tax year ended April, 2001, the claimants earned an average of £23,437 (29,758.85 Euro) for working an average of 52 hours per week, regularly over 7 days. The change to a guaranteed 5 day week with 2 rest days and an average hours contract, which will provide for equal weekly earnings throughout the year, represents a very radical improvement in the pay and conditions of employment of the staff concerned.
3. Any comparison with any other group of employees is inappropriate and without basis. The package agreed with Signalpersons Category 2 was based on average annual earnings of £27,782 (35,275.86 Euro) up to April, 2000, over an average 60 hour week.
4. There are very significant immediate cost implications in conceding this claim and potentially in respect of other groups in the multiple group structure. There are also significant industrial relations and extra cost implications in respect of the potential to create a spiral of relativity claims.
5. Each hours contract for existing staff will contain 2 paid hours which will not be part of the regular roster to cover contingencies such as late running of trains. As pension annuity is based on basic pay at retirement, pension entitlements and capital sum entitlements will increase by approximately 37%.
This is a claim made on behalf of 62 Ticket Checkers and 80 Train Guards. It is one of nine disputes, separately referred to the Court, arising from the work reorganisation programme initiated by the Company in 1997. As the issues arising in each of these cases are similar, and in some respects identical, the Court convened a series of consecutive hearings to investigate each of them. The recommendations in each case have been formulated having regard to the totality of the submissions made in the course of all of the hearings.
In their submissions on behalf of the vast majority of those affected by the current series of claims, the Unions have argued that the composite rate payable under the new work structures should be based on previous relativities. For its part, the Company has pointed out that basic pay is but one component of the overall pay of the employees concerned. It says that the composite rates offered take account of the gross current earnings of the grades concerned, the attendance pattern expected of them under the new arrangements, and other relevant considerations. This, the Company contends, was the basis on which the pay of other groups was determined in the present negotiations.
The Court accepts that, in respect of other groups, including those with whom comparison is now drawn, the Unions have successfully argued that overall earning levels should be reflected in the new composite rate.
From the information provided by the parties, it is clear that some groups have maintained high levels of average earnings by working extraordinary levels of overtime. In many cases, the level of overtime has arisen from fortuitous events, and there is a significant disparity in the gross hours worked by different groups. For those reasons, the Court does not accept that reliance on previous average earnings would provide a sound or fair basis for pay determination into the future.
The Court is of the view that the approach to be adopted in determining pay levels under the proposed new arrangements cannot completely discount previously agreed and well established internal pay relationships, although other factors are also clearly relevant. These include the impact of change expected from particular groups, and the degree to which they are prepared to co-operate with such change.
In the present case, the Court is satisfied that the changes in work practices sought by the Company from this grade are broadly similar in nature and degree to that conceded by the other grades with which their pay was previously linked. In the absence of any other logical basis on which pay can be determined in the current cases, and subject to the Unions accepting the full range of change measures sought by the Company, the Court considers that the Unions’ claim for the maintenance of existing internal pay linkages has merit.
The groups associated with this claim have previously had their pay linked to that of the Signal Person Grade 2. For the reasons stated above, the Court believes that this linkage should be maintained. The Court, therefore, recommends that the pay of the grade associated with this claim be set at £22,033.15 (27,976.33 Euro) per annum for a 39 hour contract with pro-rata adjustments for contracts of longer duration.
Duration of Contracts
In the case of the Signal Person grades, the Court recommended that contracts of 43,45 and 48 hours be offered. This recommendation was made on the basis of that attendance pattern being in line with the operational requirements of the Company in respect of those grades. In the present case, more flexibility is required in the rostering arrangements available to the Company.
The Court recommends that the duration of hours contracts should be determined by reference to the operational needs of the Company subject to a minimum of 39 hours and a maximum of 48 hours. The Court does not, therefore, recommend concession of the Unions’ claim that contracts be confined to ones of 43, 45 and 48 hours duration.
Pay for New Entrants
In their submissions to the Court, the Unions have expressed strong opposition to the Company's proposal to put a separate salary scale in place for new entrants to the grade.
The Court acknowledges that similar arrangements to those proposed by the Company in respect of the grades associated with this claim have been agreed in respect of other grades. The Court also accepts that the introduction of a salary scale for new entrants represents an important cost mitigation measure which the Company is legitimately entitled to pursue.
Nonetheless, the Court is conscious of the degree of opposition which exists to these proposed arrangements, and is of the view that further discussions should take place with a view to elongating the proposed salary scale so as to provide that new entrants have the potential to progress to pay levels comparable to those recommended for existing staff.
Future Pay Determination
In previous related recommendations, the Court has found it necessary to comment critically on the decision of the parties to constitute each grade or category of employees as a separate negotiating unit for the purpose of the current negotiations. The inherent difficulties caused by this approach were also adverted to in the report prepared jointly by the Court and the Labour Relations Commission on issues arising from the dispute involving the ILDA in 2000. More recently, the special expert group appointed by the Minister for Public Enterprise to enquire into industrial relations within the Company, came to a similar conclusion to that reached by the Court and recommended a major streamlining of negotiating structures.
If that objective is to be achieved, it will necessitate the application to all groups of a transparent and uniform approach to future pay determination. In formulating its recommendations in the present series of referrals, the Court has been mindful of this imperative. Whilst separate recommendations are being issued in each case, they are all based on the same underlying rationale and, if accepted, will have the effect of providing a framework of internal pay linkages which could be relied upon in future negotiations. This, it is hoped, will facilitate the parties in re-establishing unified and coherent bargaining and decision-making structures within the Company.
The Court strongly recommends that on acceptance of these recommendations, the parties should commit to the establishment of unified negotiating structures, and should enter into immediate discussion on the establishment of such structures.
Finally, the stance adopted by the Unions in the present series of claims was directed at maintaining the internal integrity of the Company’s pay structure. The strategy which the Court has adopted in the nine recommendations which it has issued is largely supportive of that position.
It should be clear that this strategy will be fatally undermined if any one of the recommendations in this series is rejected. The Court would, therefore, urge the Unions to consider adopting arrangements for deciding on these recommendations which will maximise the possibility of obtaining a common outcome in respect of all groups.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
5th September, 2001______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Dympna Greene, Court Secretary.