INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 2001
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
(REPRESENTED BY THE IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Mr Duffy
Employer Member: Mr Pierce
Worker Member: Mr Somers
1. Introduction of a Sick Pay Scheme.
2. The issue in dispute concerns a claim by the Union for the introduction of an enhanced sick pay scheme. In 1999/2000 the parties were in dispute over basic pay and, following two months of industrial action, a return to work agreement was reached. Part of the agreement was that the sick pay scheme would be improved. The parties entered into discussions on the matter but the Company’s proposal was rejected. The Company was seeking changes to the rules governing unauthorised absences, but the Union believed that this issue should be dealt with separately, when the sick pay discussions were finalised. The Company proposed a non-contributory scheme with a maximum period of benefit entitlement in any one year's membership of 5 weeks (25 working days). In week 1 the Company proposed to pay 2 days at 90% of employee basic wage plus £25 (31.74 Euro), less Statutory Sick Pay (S.S.P.). In weeks 2 to 5 the Company proposed a payment of 90% of basic pay less S.S.P. The Union’s claim is for 100% of average pay (basic pay plus bonus) for 8/10 weeks duration.
The dispute was the subject of a conciliation conference under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission on the 20th of December, 2000. Agreement could not be reached, and the issue was referred to the Labour Court on the 8th of February, 2001 in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. The Court investigated the dispute in Dundalk, Co. Louth on the 29th of August, 2001, the earliest date suitable to the parties.
3. 1. The Union’s claim for a meaningful sick pay scheme is allowable and is not in breach of the terms of the PPF or any national agreement. The sick pay is a benefit to assist employees in need and should not be linked to the attendance and lateness procedure.
2.The Company is an extremely profitable one and the cost of funding the scheme is extremely low at £40,000 (50,789.52 Euro). The offer of an improved sick pay scheme was made in the context of a resolution to a dispute and the Company did not state in its proposal that it would be funded on the basis of a change to the lateness and absenteeism agreement.
3. The employees are cooperating with on-going changes sought by the Company. However, fundamental to the back to work agreement was the review of the bonus structure, which has not yet taken place. A revised bonus scheme, with increased efficiencies, would go a long way towards meeting the Company’s concerns on costs.
4. The Union is prepared to discuss amendments to the absence agreement scheme separately from the sick pay scheme.
4. 1. The Company operates a disciplinary points system in respect of unauthorised absence and tardiness. However, the current system permits a worker to take a combination of certified illness and 23 days unauthorised absence without being dismissed. This system cannot afford to continue. The Company is seeking to reduce the number of unauthorised days' absence from 24 days per annum to 10 days over a three year period.
2. The level of absenteeism in the company is unmanageable and unacceptable. In the year 2000 the total absenteeism was 9.1%, while up to July, 2001 it was 8.3%. The average number of people missing on a daily basis in August was 55 people, while on one particular Monday 70 people were absent. The Company cannot even begin to put a figure on the lost productivity involved.
3. Apart from the £40,000 (50,789.52 Euro) that the Company is willing to commit to the proposed sick pay scheme, the employees have benefited from significant improvements in their conditions and environment. The Company’s contribution to pensions was increased by 3% over the past three years, there has been an increase in all service pay rates, average take home pay has increased by 18% over the last two years and general improvements in facilities have been made at a cost of over £1 million (1,269,738.00 Euro).
The Court has considered the submissions of the parties and recommends that the Company should amend its offer on a revised sick pay scheme as follows:
1. In the first week of certified illness payment should be equal to two days' pay at 100% of the employee's basic pay plus £25 (31.74 Euro) less Social Welfare Disability Benefit.
2. In week 2 to week 10, payment should be based on 100% of the employee's basic pay less Social Welfare Disability Benefit.
3. Mortality benefit should be increased to £1,000 (1269.74 Euro).
4. The benefits should be guaranteed to all employees who meet the qualifications under the scheme and the Company should provide a level of funding sufficient to maintain those benefits.
5. The other conditions proposed by the Company in its document dated 8th September, 2000, should be accepted.
The Court further recommends that in return for this concession the Union should accept the Company's proposal on a modification of the current agreement relating to absenteeism and lateness.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
19th September, 2001______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Dympna Greene, Court Secretary.