INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 2001
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
BOC GASES LIMITED
(REPRESENTED BY IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Mr Flood
Employer Member: Mr Keogh
Worker Member: Mr. Somers
1. Entitlements under Company's Pension Scheme (Ill Health Benefits)
2. The dispute concerns approximately 47 workers employed in the clerical and administrative grades, and relates in particular to one worker. The matter in dispute concerns an interpretation of the Company's Ill Health Benefits in the Pension Scheme.
Up to 1992, the Company provided an Income Continuance Plan which provided an income (75% of basic salary) to workers who had been out sick after 26 weeks' continuous disablement (the first 26 weeks consisted of 13 weeks' full pay and 13 weeks' half pay.) Once a worker was deemed fit, they could return to work. The Income Continuous Plan was underwritten by Norwich Union Limited, which withdrew from the business in 1992. In its place, the Company introduced the Ill Health Benefits' scheme which, the Union believed, would contain the same entitlements as the Income Continuous Plan. In the present case, the worker concerned has been out sick for more than 26 weeks but has received no payment from the Benefit scheme. At the hearing, the Company confirmed that , in effect, a person would have to retire to benefit from the present scheme. The person could re-apply for a job in the Company once deemed fit but there was no guarantee of getting the job.
The dispute was referred to the Labour Relations Commission and a conciliation conference took place. As agreement could not be reached, the dispute was referred to the Labour Court on the 15th of November, 2001, in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. A Labour Court hearing took place on the 8th of January, 2002.
3. 1. In June, 1992, the Union wrote to the Company asking a number of detailed questions about the proposed Ill Health Benefit scheme, including whether the scheme conferred the same rights as the Income Continuance Plan. The Company replied in the affirmative.
2. All Union members and , indeed, some members of management have confirmed that this was their understanding of the situation. If members had known that they were not entitled to the same benefits, they would have taken out some form of insurance themselves.
3. The Union believes that the worker concerned has fulfilled all the criteria for qualifying for an income after 26 weeks of disability.
4. 1. The Company decided to terminate the Income Continuous Plan due to the unacceptable difficulties imposed by the Insurance company. As a result, it introduced the Ill Health Pension scheme. Much discussion took place with the Union prior to the introduction of the new scheme to ensure that all parties were happy with it.
2. The new scheme has excellent benefits and has run since 1992 without difficulties. All employees who have applied for the Pension scheme since 1992 have been successful. It appears that the Union is attempting to re-write a 10 year old agreement.
The Court considered the written and oral submissions made by the parties, and the documentation in relation to the Pension Scheme.
The Company argued that there is no significant difference for individuals between the pre and the post 1992 Schemes. The Court, while accepting that the Company had to make changes in 1992, is satisfied that there is significant difference in that an individual out sick for more than 26 weeks would, under the new Scheme, have to opt for retirement to continue to be paid.
It is clear that a difference of opinion exists as to the extent and outcome of the discussions in 1992.
It is also clear that the employees now know the implications in the new scheme, although this may not have been clear to them before this case.
Taking into account all of the issues involved in this case, the Court is satisfied that the current Scheme is reasonable in the circumstances, and does not recommend concession of the Union's claim for maintenance of the Income Continuance Plan.
However, the Court recommends that in the particular case before it the Company should, given that this is the first case of its type, make an ex-gratis payment of euro 1,270 to this employee in full and final settlement of this dispute.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
22nd January, 2002______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Ciaran O'Neill, Court Secretary.