INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 2001
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
RONANSTOWN COMMUNITY CHILDCARE CENTRE
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Ms Jenkinson
Employer Member: Mr Pierce
Worker Member: Mr. Somers
1. Withdrawal of Christmas bonus.
2. The Centre is a community based childcare centre, which is managed by a voluntary management committee. It opened in April, 1998 and had its official opening in December, 2000. It is funded by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, the Department of Health and Children and parents’ contributions. There are approximately 15 Community Employment Participants, one supervisor and 4 Jobs Initiative people, whose posts are funded by FAS. The Union represents the 4 Jobs Initiative workers and 8 others who are employed directly by the Centre.
The Union’s claim is on behalf of the 8 workers who are directly employed by the Centre for the payment of a Christmas bonus of €127. The Union states that the Christmas bonus was paid to all 12 of its members in 1999 and 2000, but that it was discontinued by the Centre in 2001. However, the employees who are funded by FAS received a FAS Christmas bonus in 2001. The Management Committee rejected the Union’s claim at local level discussions and the issue was the subject of a conciliation conference under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission. Agreement was not reached and the issue was referred to the Labour Court on the 22nd of January, 2002, in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. The Court investigated the dispute on the 15th of February, 2002.
3. 1. The Christmas bonus was paid to the claimants in December, 1999 and December, 2000 in appreciation of their work over the previous years.
2. The bonus is part of their conditions of employment and should remain so, until such time as it is agreed by all of the parties that it should be discontinued.
3. The cost of the Christmas bonus would have been almost the same as the cost of the Christmas party, which management provided in 2001 for all of the workers.
4. The Union does not accept that senior management did not have knowledge of the payment of the bonus for two years.
4. 1. The Centre received additional funding in August, 1999, from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. The Christmas bonus was paid in 1999 as a once-off payment in appreciation of the huge effort involved in setting up the Centre.
2. The payment of a Christmas bonus does not form part of any contract of employment. In 2000, the Administrator had promised to pay the bonus without consulting the management committee. It was paid with the proviso that a decision would be made in January, 2001, regarding any future payments.
3. The management committee decided to provide a Christmas party for all of the people who worked at the Centre in recognition of their good work, instead of paying a bonus to only a select few. This was to promote equality among all staff who are doing a similar job.
4. The Centre is struggling to meet expenses with a limited budget. It is now aware that it has tax liabilities for the payment of the bonus in 1999 and 2000. It also secured substantial pay increases for the staff, whose salaries now average about €2,500 more than those paid in the private sector. The staff also benefit from a training and development budget.
5. Payment of the bonus to the claimants would cause dissent among the workers because of its selective and discriminatory nature and would divert funding away from the essential services which the Centre provides.
The Court has considered the position of both sides. The Court is not satisfied that the payment of a Christmas bonus was an established practice, as claimed by the Union. The Court accepts that this payment was made in 1999 as a gesture of goodwill and was intended as a once-off payment in recognition of the work involved in setting up the Centre. The payment of the bonus in 2000 was agreed to after some discussion at board level but was paid on the understanding that the situation would be reviewed in 2001. The payment of a Christmas bonus in such circumstances, does not in the Court's view, establish such a payment as a condition of employment, rather it views it as an optional payment made by the Centre.
Taking into account the considerable improvement made in the salaries of the claimants, and the Centre's attempt to acknowledge equally the work of all those involved, the Court does not recommend concession of the claim.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
4th March, 2002______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Dympna Greene, Court Secretary.