INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 2001
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
IRISH CO-OP SOCIETY / EUROPAKS CORRUGATED CASES LIMITED
(REPRESENTED BY IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Ms Jenkinson
Employer Member: Mr Carberry
Worker Member: Ms Ni Mhurchu
1. Implementation of proposals recommended in an Industrial Engineer's Report.
2. The Company's core activity is the manufacture of corrugated cardboard for supply to the agricultural and industrial sectors. It employs 110 workers. In 2000, the Company introduced a new corrugator machine which enables it to make its own corrugated cardboard and not have to rely on external suppliers of corrugated boards. The corrugator machine runs on a continuous cycle. It was agreed that a work study would take place to identify what effect the corrugator would have on the workers' duties. A joint study - between the SIPTU industrial engineer and Irish Productivity Centre (IPC) - resulted in a draft report in July, 2001, which the Union accepts and a further report in August, 2001, which the Company is prepared to accept. A meeting in May, 2001, had resulted in the following terms of reference being agreed:
Carry out a review of the effects of the production
cycle from the new corrugator on all the subsequent
production operations - including box making, waste,
administration, dispatch and delivery. The assignment
- An examination of productivity improvement
opportunities within these operations, including
continuous machine running.
- A review of existing production methods and
procedures, and recommendations on how these
might be improved to make the company more
efficient and viable.
The Union believes that the August report does not deal with the terms of reference as above and is seeking an agreed version. Specifically, it is seeking the introduction of a bonus system, and compensation for loss of overtime associated with the introduction of the corrugator. The Company is not prepared to introduce a bonus scheme.
The 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 10th of April, 2002, in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. A Labour Court hearing took place on the 10th of July, 2002, in Limerick.
3. 1. The impact of the corrugator has been hugely significant for the Company. Production has increased threefold and overtime associated with purchased board has disappeared.
2. The Company is extremely busy at the moment yet it has persistently argued inability to pay the increases sought by the Union.
3. The members are anxious to be involved in the running of the Company and believe that there could be a win/win situation for both parties. They have co-operated with the introduction, training and running of the new machine despite the increased workload..
4. 1. The Company is prepared to accept the report of August, 2001.
2. The trading circumstances of the Company have changed dramatically since the report was commissioned, with the corrugated board market suffering from over capacity.
3. The Company has agreed to give the corrugator staff an increase of €6.35 per week for continuous running and is prepared to extend this to the conversion staff. However, the Union's claim for an increase to basic pay is cost-increasing and precluded by the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness (PPF).
This claim has arisen as a result of the vast investment made by the Company in new machinery, a decision that was taken in order for this Company to survive. The Company, at the behest of the Union, agreed to fund a joint study by IPC/SIPTU of the effects of this new machinery. The Union sought implementation of the proposals recommended by the report. The Company accepts the findings of the report and has agreed to implement its proposals. The difficulty lies in the fact that the final report of August, 2001, is worded differently than the draft report of July, 2001, which the SIPTU industrial engineer signed before his retirement.
The Union accepted that the principal difference in the report lies in the absence of a reference to a participation model for implementing the report, and only provides for management to hold briefing sessions with staff on the future strategy of the Company. The staff are most anxious to be involved in the decision making process of implementing the proposals recommended by the report - setting objectives and action plans to increase efficiency and cost effectiveness, implementing best practice procedures, etc. Staff stressed to the Court their concern for this Company’s future; their need to be involved alongside the Company in a co-operative way to move forward; their need to be recognised and valued in the same way as the technology is valued by the Company.
The Court notes management’s intention to extend the current continuous working arrangement to conversion staff and, thereby, increase their rate of pay by €6.35 as applied in similar circumstances to corrugator machine operators who agreed to stagger their breaks.
The Court, having heard the submissions of the parties, notes that the initial substantive issue, the issue of the new Corrugator machine on a continuous running basis, is no longer the disputed issue.
It is regrettable that progress on implementing best practice as recommended by the report has been delayed due to a disagreement about the status of the two reports.
In order to progress this matter in the best interests of both parties the Court, in line with the provisions of Chapter 9 of the Partnership 2000, recommends that the parties develop a partnership model suitable to their needs.
The Court is conscious that this will entail time and effort and goodwill on both sides.
Procedurally it is suggested a Joint Working Party be set up. This working party should have as its objectives:
1. The identification and implementation of changes aimed at achieving results in specific areas of the firm’s business.
2. The involvement of workers' representatives in defining and achieving competitive goals.
3.The introduction of a reward system whereby quantified production gains are shared on an agreed basis.
4. The training and development of employees'/employers' representatives is vital in order for the partnership model to achieve the objectives set out.
The services and skills of the Advisory Service of the Labour Relations Commission should be of assistance in this process.
The Court so recommends.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
2nd August, 2002______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Ciaran O'Neill, Court Secretary.