INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 2001
SECTION 13(9), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1969
- AND -
(REPRESENTED BY IMPACT / IALPA)
Chairman: Mr Duffy
Employer Member: Mr Keogh
Worker Member: Ms Ni Mhurchu
1. Appeal against Rights Commissioner's Recommendation IR6645/01/JH.
2. The worker joined the Department of Lands Forestry Division (the forerunner to Coillte) in 1976. In 1998/1999, a series of incidents took place in which the worker alleges that he was bullied by a colleague. An internal investigation by a senior manager took place. Coillte's view is that the outcome of the investigation was that, while 2 specific incidents occurred which were "clearly inappropriate and should not have happened" they fell a long way short of bullying as contained in the Company's policy on bullying and harassment. The worker was unhappy with the outcome and referred his case to a Rights Commissioner. He referred his case on 5 points:
1. Definition of bullying.
2. Inappropriate behaviour amounting to bullying (the substance of the complaint).
3. Company's failure to satisfactorily resolve the issues.
4. Breaking the spirit and terms of the agreed Grievance Procedures.
5. Investigation by the senior manager
Following the investigation, the Rights Commissioner concluded and recommended as follows .
"The worker was harassed and undermined by his colleague over a period of time and overall his complaints in this regard are valid and his disagreement with the main finding of the senior manager's investigation is justified. Bullying is an extreme form of harassment and while there was harassment and antagonism - the term bullying is not justified in this instance."
"I recommend that the foregoing conclusions be accepted by all of the parties as the final outcome of the allegations made by the worker against his colleagues."
(The worker, his colleague and the senior manager were all named in the conclusions).
The worker appealed the recommendation to the Labour Court on the 30th of September, 2002, in accordance with Section 13(9) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1969, on 2 counts :
(1) The Company did not handle the investigation in a fair and satisfactory manner and
(2) Failure to make a financial reward to the claimant
A Labour Court hearing took place on the 27th of March, 2003 in Sligo, the earliest date suitable to both parties.
3. 1.The events led to the worker suffering from stress and depression. He had to take time off work and he required medical and psychiatric attention.
2. The Rights Commissioners recommendation is very different to the Company's internal investigation. She found that"the worker was harassed and undermined by his colleague over a period of time"and that there was"a real level of antagonism on the part of his colleague towards the worker during the second period of their employment together".
3. Since working with a different manager in January, 1999, the worker has an excellent relationship with his colleagues / manager.
4. In light of the Rights Commissioners' recommendation, the Union believes that a significant and substantial financial reward should be made to the worker.
4. 1. Coillte accepted the internal investigation. Whilst it did not fully share the Rights Commissioners interpretation in certain matters, Coillte was satisfied to accept the overall conclusion.
2 Coillte does not believe that a financial reward is warranted or appropriate for the following reasons:
- The Rights Commissioner's findings went further than the internal investigation in validating the worker's complaint.
- At no time in the course of either the internal investigation or the Rights Commissioner's hearing did the worker or his Union make any claim for a financial reward.
All of the issues arising in this appeal were before the Rights Commissioner, who has an acknowledged expertise in the investigation and resolution of issues relating to bullying and harassment. The Rights Commissioner investigated this dispute with characteristic thoroughness and care. The conclusions and recommendations are a model of common sense and reasonableness upon which the Court could not hope to improve.
It is regrettable that the claimant did not avail of the opportunity presented by the Rights Commissioner to bring finality to this dispute. Despite adverse findings by the Rights Commissioner, the other party involved and the Company have, to their credit, accepted the recommendation, thereby acknowledging the claimant's sense of grievance.
Having considered all of the submissions made to it, the Court is fully satisfied that the recommendation of the Rights Commissioner should be upheld. In so doing, the Court would urge all parties to recognise the futility of perpetuating this conflict and to start the process of putting the unfortunate events of the past number of years behind them. The Court would also urge the Company to provide appropriate facilitation to assist all concerned to rebuild a normal professional relationship.
The appeal is disallowed and the recommendation of the Rights Commissioner is upheld.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
14th April, 2003______________________
Enquiries concerning this Decision should be addressed to Ciaran O'Neill, Court Secretary.