INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 2001
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
IRISH RUBBER COMPONENTS
(REPRESENTED BY IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Ms Jenkinson
Employer Member: Mr Keogh
Worker Member: Mr O'Neill
1. Interpretation of an Agreement.
2. The Company manufactures rubber components for the motor industry at its factory in Carrick-on-Shannon, Co. Roscommon. It employs approximately seventy two workers.
In 1977, the Company concluded a house agreement with the Union. Clause 15 of this agreement relates to interchangeability and states "it is essential for the establishment and maintenance of normal levels of production that each employee of operative status be trained and capable of performing the full range of work within the production function of the plant and to transfer from one role to another as the needs of the plant require from time to time".
The dispute before the Court relates to the interpretation of Clause 15 of the agreement. The Company states that the agreement allows employees to transfer between grades. The Union states there are two separate grades in the Company, machine operators and non-machine operators, each with different terms and conditions of employment and with no transferring between grades.
The dispute could not be resolved at local level and was the subject of a conciliation conference under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission held on the 1st of March, 2001. As agreement was not reached, the dispute was referred to the Labour Court on the 4th of May, 2001, in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. A Labour Court hearing took place on the 5th of February, 2002, the earliest date suitable to the parties.
3. 1. There are two separate grades in the Company known as machine operators and non-machine operators. Both grades have different terms and conditions of employment with no transferring between grades.
2. Non-machine operators do not have operative status. Some workers operate machines at weekends on a voluntary basis but receive only non-machine operators' rate of pay.
4. 1. The Agreement was undisputed for over twenty years.
2. Clause 15 of the Company/Union Agreement should be applied to the Company as one unit and that employees with appropriate skills can transfer from one department to another.
The problem for adjudication before the Court relates to the requirement of management to transfer people at short notice for a limited period of time to cover for absenteeism, to relieve bottlenecks and to deal with peaks in production, etc.
In the case of permanent transfers, there is an agreed procedure i.e. the job is advertised and the individual elects to move voluntarily.
The Court is mindful that from time to time there is a need to move staff from one location to another to cope with production contingencies. Such moves are temporary and withoutany lossto the individual.
The Court is satisfied that the clause in the agreement is a standard interchangeability and flexibility clause. The Court does not accept that this requirement is confined to one part of the production function, namely the non-machine operatives. Such clauses are normal in Company/Union agreements and are agreed so as to ensure that demarcation disputes do not arise.
The Court notes that the Company has given an assurance that such interchangeability will not have a detrimental effect on pay, conditions of employment or seniority status.
The Court is clearly of the view that the application of this clause relates to all production functions equally, machine operatives and non-machine operatives, and accordingly recommends that the Union accepts that Clause 15 applies to all employees as one unit within the company.
The Court further recommends that such flexibility should only be called upon as necessary.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
4th March, 2002______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Gerardine Buckley, Court Secretary.