INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 2001
SECTION 20(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1969
BANK OF IRELAND
- AND -
(REPRESENTED BY IRISH BANK OFFICIALS ASSOCIATION)
Chairman: Mr Flood
Employer Member: Mr Carberry
Worker Member: Mr O'Neill
1. Re-Hearing arising from Labour Court Recommendation 16875.
2. On the 13th July, 2001, a dispute in relation to an improved voluntary parting package to the worker, who left the Bank in 1999, was the subject of a Labour Court investigation and recommendation. In LCR 16875 the Court recommended as follows;
"............While both sides acted in good faith, it is clear that neither party was privy to the discussions going on within the organisation during the period when negotiations were taking place.
The Court is satisfied that the Company representative acted in good faith at all times, but that he was not aware of the full picture.
Having considered all the background information , the Court finds some merit in the employee's claim and recommends that the parties meet to endeavour to reach agreement satisfactory to both sides.
If they fail to reach agreement , the Court will make a definitive recommendation on the substantive matter in dispute".
Subsequently the parties held discussions at which the Bank refused to consider the provision of pension for service prior to 1991. It offered a lump sum of €6,348 and increased this offer by a further €2,539 retraining funding payable against receipted expenditure. The Union rejected the offer and referred the issue to the Court for a definitive recommendation. The Bank was agreeable to the referral. A Court hearing was held on the 6th December, 2002.
3. 1. The Union does not accept the Bank's contention that it cannot improve the worker's pension entitlement as it is bound by the rules of the Bank Staff Pension Fund and by an agreement reached with the Revenue Commissioners. The Bank failed to provide details to the Union of the rules and terms binding the Bank from providing the claimant with the Group Transformation Programme (GTP) package.
2.The Bank's offer is wholly inadequate. This is supported by the comparison between the GTP package and what the claimant received in terms of lump sum and pension. If the Bank's preferred option is a lump sum the Union is agreeable to examine a sum which, when invested, would ensure a return in monetary terms which a GTP pension would provide.
3.A settlement in respect of GTP pension for the claimant would not create a precedent because of the unique circumstances of his case, particularly the fact that he was given a written guarantee which extended beyond his departure from the Bank.
4.Approximately 1,000 employees have left the Bank or are in the process of leaving under GTP terms.
4. 1.The claimant initiated departure discussions with the Bank and entered into an agreement voluntarily in 1999. The Bank has honoured the agreement in full and enhanced its terms.
2.At all times, the Bank has contended that the worker is not entitled to the terms of the GTP package. During the period May, 2000 and April 2002, when the GTP package was open, 76 employees, with service pre-1991, resigned from the Bank. Unlike the claimant they did not benefit from enhanced departure terms. These employees retained preserved pension from 1st January, 1991, but did not benefit from a lump sum payment.
3.The Union indicated that a lump sum payment is an acceptable means of resolving the issue.The Bank's increased offer of €8,888 brings the claimant's total lump sum payment to €60,947. The Bank has provided for a lump sum equating to the notional capital value of the claimant's pre-1991 service. There are no grounds for a further increase in payment to the claimant beyond the present offer.
The Court held a number of hearings in relation to this case and has had comprehensive written and oral submissions in relation to the dispute.
The employee’s case is that he took an early retirement package on the basis of the commitment given by the bank that if a better deal became available within a specified time, he would benefit from it. As it turned out a deal did appear, but it was after the specified time limit allowed, March 2000.
He argued strongly that the deal was already in the pipeline when he was having his discussions with Senior Management and therefore he was misled. He further argues that he would have got the GTP package had he stayed on in the Company.
The Management argument is that the employee was given a package when none existed and he had been treated generously by the Company. Any commitment given was given in good faith and has been honoured. The deal that subsequently appeared was after the period of the commitment and after the time scale had expired.
It was further argued that there was no guarantee that he would have been accepted for that particular scheme, if it had been applied to his area. Management argue, that staff do not have a right to the package and that a number of people left with nothing in similar circumstances.
Initially it was alleged that the Company argued they could do nothing based on an agreement they had with the Revenue Commissioner. Subsequently this situation changed and it was argued that it could not be done under the pension rules. Finally the Company argued that it had honoured the commitment made and the individual in question had benefited with a deal when others had left with nothing.
This is a particularly unfortunate case in that, as the Court has already indicated, it believes that the parties involved acted in good faith in progressing the retirement of the employee. It is clear discussions were taking place within the organisation at the highest level about a particular package, the existence of which the personnel dealing with the employee were unaware.
However, the Court is also conscious that employee himself has indicated, that he was finding it extremely difficult to continue to work in the Organisation given the climate prevailing.
The Court is satisfied that a commitment was given and on that basis it recommended that the parties should meet to try and reach agreement. However, the Court is equally satisfied that the time limit given had expired, in simple terms the commitment had run out.
The Court while sympathetic to the situation that the employee finds himself in cannot find that there was an ongoing commitment by the Company to give the new package to the individual beyond the date of March 2000. It is unfortunate that the individual feels so bitter about the Company but the Court must deal with the issues as presented. The facts are as follows:
1. There was a commitment that if a better package was produced before the end of the financial year (March 2000) the claimant would benefit.
2. The GTP package was not available before the March deadline. In the absence of a better deal the claimant could have stayed in the Company.
3. The claimant was the beneficiary of a package at the time when a package did not exist and a number of others had left the Company with no such benefits.
4. The claimant was already finding the work and atmosphere prevailing stressful, and wanted to leave the Company. Given the climate described he may have chosen to leave anyway.
Taking in to account all of the circumstances it is likely that the claimant would have been satisfied, had the GTP package not emerged. Given this position the Court has to decide if he was entitled to the GTP offer. Having considered all the information supplied the Court finds that he was not, as the commitment made had expired.
The Court however, taking into consideration all the circumstances of the case recommends that the monies which the Bank has offered in its discussions since the original hearing should be brought up to €20,000 lump sum in full and final settlement of this case.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Tom O'Dea, Court Secretary.