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 (Freight Grades).
2. There are approximately 130 staff employed in ‘Freight Grades’ who are designated as Depotpersons, Forklift Operators, Mechanical Operators, Senior Depotpersons, Traffic Sorters, and Traffic Co-Ordinators. As part of re-structuring negotiations which have been ongoing since April, 1997, the Company proposes to rationalise the present grading structure from 15 grades to 4 grades. It proposes to deploy the Freight Grades as follows:
Freight Depotpersons Station Operative Grade 4
Forklift Operators Station Operative Grade 3
Mechanical Operators Station Operative Grade 2
Senior Depotpersons Station Operative Grade 2
Traffic Sorters Station Operative Grade 2
Traffic Co-Ordinators Station Operative Grade 1
The parties were unable to reach agreement on pay rates, the Company’s proposal to introduce five over seven day working, rest days, minimum and maximum hours of work and various proposed flexibilities. The issues were the subject of conciliation conferences at the Labour Relations Commission on several dates up to the 15th of June, 2001. As agreement was not possible, the issues were 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 31st of July, 2001.
3. 1. Historically, the Company has operated a low wage strategy for its staff which has resulted in an overdependance on overtime working, seven days a week. Employeeswere compelled to work overtime to sustain their families and to service mortgages, etc.. They had little quality of life and were often penalised through the Company’s Disciplinary Procedures if they refused to work on their rest days.
2. The Labour Court has previously issued a recommendation on Signalpersons (LCR16685). Traffic Co-Ordinators, whose present weekly rate of pay is £271.07 (344.19 Euro), have historically been benchmarked with Signalpersons Category 1 and they should remain so. Their new rates of pay range from £23,432.08 (29,752.60 Euro) for a 39 hour contract to £28,839.48 (36,618.59 Euro) for a 48 hour contract.
3. Traffic Sorters, Mechanical Operators and Senior Depotpersons have a basic weekly rate of £253.16 (321.45 Euro), which is the same rate as that paid to Signalpersons Category 2 before their new deal. Accordingly, the Signalpersons' Category 2 new rates of pay should apply to them. If there are any Office Tracers, Number Persons and Forklift Truck Operators in existence who have a basic rate of pay of £241.86 (307.10 Euro), they should be categorised with the new Signalperson Grade 3.
4. There are a number of re-grading claims placed before the Company which are long outstanding. These should be dealt with as part of these discussions. Mechanical Operators attached to North Wall are in receipt of Traffic Co-Ordinators' rate of pay since 1993 in a higher duty capacity. They should be confirmed in that grade and benchmarked with Signalperson Category 1.
5. With regard to the proposed five over seven day working, the two rest days should be on a rotating basis and linked in a fashion that would give long weekends to employees. This has already been agreed with Drivers, Signalpersons and Supervisors. The Unions’ claim is also for a minimum 6 hour day and a maximum 10 hour day, which is in line with previous deals and, in particular, the Train Drivers’ deal. The Unions are also seeking voluntary severance for longer serving employees, as has applied in the past.
4. 1.The proposed structure for Freight Grades appropriately reflects the duties assigned to these grades. Any comparison with other groups, such as the Signalperson Category 2 grade, in pursuit of relativity or comparability based pay awards is inappropriate, as there is no like for like comparison.
2. The composite earnings packages and incremental scales appropriately reflect the previous earnings and work patterns of the claimants and take into account future work patterns. The incremental scales will provide pay progression and earnings stability for new entrants.
3. The ‘hours contracts’ will be operated on the basis of agreed rostering parameters, including a maximum and minimum work day, guaranteed rest day pattern and averaging of hours worked over a reckonable period. ‘Long’ weeks will be balanced by ‘short’ weeks. Employees will be paid in equal amounts weekly throughout the year, unlike the present situation when earnings fluctuate depending on the number of hours worked.
4. The Company’s proposals will radically improve the circumstances of the staff and will increase the capacity and capability of the Organisation. They represent a complete departure from a traditional, one-dimensional, mathematically based ‘productivity’ bargaining approach to a multidimensional reward for change approach. Once achieved, a very sound basis will have been created to provide space for further organisational and staff development, on a scale and in an environment never observed or experienced previously in Iarnrod Eireann.
This is a claim made on behalf of 130 staff deployed in Freight Grades. 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 practice 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 the Signal Person Grade. In the case of the Traffic Co-ordinator, the alignment was with the Signal Person Grade 1. In the case of Traffic Sorters, Mechanical Operatives and Senior Depotperson, the alignment was with Signal Person Grade 2. There are a number of miscellaneous grades classified as Office Tracer, Number Person and Forklift Truck Operator, all of whom were aligned with the Signal Person Grade 3.
For the reasons stated above, the Court believes that these linkage should be maintained. The Court, therefore, recommends that the pay of the grade of Traffic Co-ordinator, associated with this claim be set at £23,432.08 (29,752.60 Euro) per annum for a 39 hour contract with pro-rata adjustments for contracts of longer duration.
In the case of Traffic Sorter, Mechanical Operative and Senior Depotperson the Court recommends the composite rate be set at £22,033.15 (27,976.33 Euro) for a 39 hour contract and pro-rata adjustments for contracts of longer duration.
In the case of the miscellaneous grades, the composite rate should be set at £20,459.89 (25,978.20 Euro) for a 39 hour contract and pro-rata 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.