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 (Shunters and Leading Shunters).
2. The issues in dispute concern re-structuring negotiations which commenced in April, 1997 between the parties. Currently, Station/Depot staff are deployed in a range of 15 designated staff grades. Under the Company's change proposals, the structure will be rationalised from 15 to 4 designated grades. There are 11 Leading Shunters and 43 Shunters involved. The Company proposes to regrade them as Station Operatives Grade 2, with an allowance of £400 (507.90 Euro) per annum paid on a red-circled basis to existing Leading Shunters. In the future the Company proposes to rotate Shunters into the Leading Shunter role on Higher Duty. The Company proposes to pay the following pay rates to existing Shunters:-
39 hour contract £17,713 (22,490.87 Euro)
43 hour contract £19,529 (24,796.71 Euro)
45 hour contract £20,438 (25,950.91 Euro)
48 hour contract £21,800 (27,680.29 Euro)
It also proposes to introduce a new six point incremental scale for new entrants. The Unions claim that Shunters have traditionally been categorised within a group of employees, which includes Signalpersons Category 2 who have concluded an agreement in accordance with Labour Court recommendation LCR16685. The Unions are seeking the same rates of pay for Shunters with a 2.5% differential for Leading Shunters. The rates of pay claimed are as follows:-
Shunters Leading Shunters
39 hour contract £22,033.15 (27,976.33 Euro) £22,583.97 (28,675.73 Euro)
43 hour contract £24,292.96 (30,845.70 Euro) £24,900.28 (31,616.83 Euro)
45 hour contract £25,422.87 (32,280.39 Euro) £26,058.44 (33,087.39 Euro)
48 hour contract £27,117.72 (34,432.40 Euro) £27,795.66 (35,293.21 Euro)
The issues were the subject of conciliation conferences under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission, but agreement was not possible. 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 31st of July, 2001.
3. 1. The Shunters have been benchmarked with Signalpersons Category 2 under the Company's pay schedule, while Leading Shunters have received a differential of 2.5%. These are the rates of pay which should continue to apply to the claimants.
2. The claimants are a highly skilled group who work in a dangerous environment and are a key group in ensuring the safety and smooth operation of the service. Their jobs require careful judgement and they often operate in extremely bad weather conditions.
3. The Company is proposing a 5 over 7 day working week. However, Shunters in goods yards do not work on Sundays and many do not work on Saturdays either. They have no desire to commence Sunday working. The Company is also proposing to change the rest period from 12 hours to 8 hours. The Unions object to this, except in some situations at weekends.
4. Shunters should not have to carry out additional duties such as driving, as has been proposed by the Company. They have not been offered additional pay for driving and, if they did so, there would be a real possibility of industrial relations problems arising. The claimants are also seeking a minimum working day of 6 hours and a maximum of 10 hours (for safety reasons), while the Company proposes a minimum of 5 hours and a maximum of 12 hours.
4. 1. The proposed Station/Depot grading structure is an appropriate rationalisation of the existing structure, which contains a multiplicity of grades giving rise to demarcation and restrictive work practices.
2. The introduction of a guaranteed five day week over seven days provides significant benefit to staff and creates a Sunday service guarantee. The proposed 'Hours Contract' model which has been agreed with other groups also provides benefits to staff.
3. The proposed pay packages and incremental scales appropriately reflect the established and future work and earnings patterns of the staff concerned. The incremental scales will provide earnings stability and pay progression for new entrants.
4. The proposed pay differential of £400 (507.90 Euro) for Leading Shunters is a fair and reasonable acknowledgement of the difference in responsibility between Leading Shunters and Shunters. Any comparison with other groups, such as Signalpersons Category 2, is inappropriate as there is no like for like comparison.
5. Concession of the claim would give rise to significant additional costs and would give rise to a spiral of catch up claims and attendant conflict.
This is a claim made on behalf of 11 Leading Shunters and 43 Shunters. 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 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 2. In the case of the Leading Shunter, there is a differential which equates to 2.5% of basic pay.
For the reasons stated above, the Court believes that these linkages should be maintained. The Court, therefore, recommends that the pay of the grade of Shunter, 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.
In the case of Lead Shunter, the Court recommends the composite rate be set at £22,583.97 (28,675.73 Euro) for a 39 hour contract and 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.