INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 2001
SECTION 13(9), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1969
- AND -
(REPRESENTED BY SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION)
Chairman: Mr Flood
Employer Member: Mr Carberry
Worker Member: Ms Ni Mhurchu
1. Appeal Against Rights Commissioner's Recommendation IR10028/02/JH
2. The worker is employed with Aer Lingus for over three years. The entry grade for clerical staff in Aer Lingus is Grade III. Progress is made through clerical grades, Grade II and Grade I upon promotion. Vacancies are published through the Staff Vacancy Notice (SVN) system and applications invited. In February 2001, vacancies for 'Customer Contact Centre - Team Leaders' at Grade II level were advertised through SVN 14/01. The worker applied for this position and was successful. She commenced her Grade II training on 19th April 2001. During training she was informed that the position now was that of 'Acting Team Leaders'
The matter was referred to a Rights Commissioner for investigation and recommendation. The Rights Commissioner's recommendation is a follows:-
"Based on the submissions made and for the reasons set out in the foregoing I recommend that each of the claimants receive a lump sum of €1500 gross to be paid to them as compensation for the conversion of their posts from permanent to acting posts and the subsequent effects on them of that unilateral decision. I also recommend that the period in which they would be eligible for vacancies as team leader without further competition be extended to July 2003. This payment to be accepted in full and final settlement of any claim by the claimants in respect of the conversion of their posts from permanent to acting and any subsequent impact on them".
On the 14th January 2003 the Union on behalf of the worker appealed the Rights Commissioner's Recommendation to the Labour Court in accordance with Section 13(9) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1969. The Court heard the appeal on the 20th March 2003.
3.1. The worker a Grade III clerical worker with Aer Lingus sought to advance her grading status in 2001. The opportunity presented itself in February 2001 by a Staff Vacancy Notice (SVN 14/01) for New Permanent Team Leader Positions in the Customer Contact Centre. The worker applied, interviews were held at the end of March 2001. In early April she was informed that she had been successful and assigned to Team Leader with a new team in Reservations HOB. She commenced Grade II training on the 19th April 2001. During training she heard that the position was now that of 'Acting Team Leader'
2. The worker queried her status and received a letter from the personnel department with a number of discrepancies:
- The Staff Vacancy No. read 43/01 when the SVN applied for was 14/01
- It stated "you have been offered an Acting Grade II position within the Customer Contact Centre" when the advert was for New Permanent Team Leaders.
- The letter stated salary increase was €1,910.96 (£1,505.00) per annum, which was the wrong grade differential.
4. 1. The worker applied for promotion to Grade II in February 2001 and the selection process for these positions took place at the end of March 2001. During this time Aer Lingus was beginning to face a worsening business climate. The 'Foot and Mouth' outbreak of Spring 2001, the economic deterioration, particularly in the IT sector, the cost of pay settlements led to staffing requirements being re-examined, a manpower review and subsequent freeze. Prior to an offer being made to any candidate, the positions advertised in SVN 14/01 were reviewed and were reclassified as acting or temporary positions. The Union claims that the Company took a unilateral decision regarding these positions. The Company reserves the right to determine the staffing levels appropriate to the business.
2. The worker, was offered the position, on an acting basis, verbally on 12th April 2001. Any concerns that the worker had in relation to the acting status were clarified in the CCC HR Managers memo of 30th April 2001. The acting position was formally offered again to the successful candidate in a memo of 10th May 2001 and was formally accepted on the 17th May 2001.
3. The events of September 11th had a catastrophic effect on the airline industry and Aer Lingus was no exception. These events had huge consequences on what was already a difficult trading situation and required immediate and drastic measures to ensure the Company's survival. Over 2,000 permanent staff left under a voluntary severance or early retirement programme. As staff numbers declined sharply there was no longer a requirement to have so many Team Leaders. The acting positions were no longer required and staff in these positions reverted to their original grade.
4. Aer Lingus offered to place the worker on a panel for automatic selection to a Grade II Team Leader position should such a vacancy become available in the Customer Contact Centre within six months from 3rd July 2002 No vacancies for permanent Grade II Team Leaders have arisen since October 2001. However, a vacancy for the position in an acting capacity arose in December 2002. The worker was automatically appointed to the position at that time and is currently an acting Grade II.
The Court having considered the written and oral submissions made by the parties is not in a position to confirm that the situation in relation to the reclassification from Permanent Team Leader to Acting or Temporary, was explained before the claimant accepted her appointment.
However, the Court is conscious of the changing situation that prevailed for the Company around the period in question.
Taking into account all of the background the Court recommends that the Rights Commissioner's Recommendation be accepted by the claimant with the following modification:-
The Claimant to remain eligible for vacancies as Team Leader, without further competition, until she is placed in such a vacancy.
The Rights Commissioner's Recommended to be amended accordingly.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
Enquiries concerning this Decision should be addressed to Jackie Byrne, Court Secretary.