INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 2001
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY FEDERATION
- AND -
THE CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY GROUP OF UNIONS
Chairman: Ms Jenkinson
Employer Member: Mr Pierce
Worker Member: Mr O'Neill
1. Expiry date of pay agreement.
2. The Unions state that in August, 2000 agreement was reached at the Construction Industry National Joint Industrial Council (NJIC) on the application of increases due under the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness (PPF) and special increases due from negotiations which followed a collateral agreement.
The Unions claim that those involved in the negotiations understood that the final phase of the PPF was for 9 months and that the agreement expired on the 31st March, 2003. Therefore, the first phase of Sustaining Progress (SP) was due from the 1st of April, 2003.
Management rejected the Unions' claim and states that the final phase of the PPF expired on the 30th June, 2003 and that the first phase of Sustaining Progress was not due until 1st July, 2003.
As there was no agreement between the parties the dispute was referred to the Conciliation Service of the Labour Relations Commission. A conciliation conference was held but agreement was not reached. The dispute was referred to the Labour Court on the 28th April, 2003 in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. The Court investigated the dispute on the 5th June, 2003.
3. 1. A major contributory factor in accepting the agreement, following a ballot of the members, was that the deal would be applied from 1st of April, 2003 and not three months later as suggested by the employers.
2.Press statements were issued and printed which highlighted the fact that the agreement had been shortened by three months.
3. At no time did the employers oppose this contention and neither did they contradict the Unions' public statements including articles in the Irish Independent and the Industrial Relations News (IRN).
4. The bringing forward of the Phases of the PPF had the obvious effect of bringing forward the expiry date of the agreement.
5. The failure of the CIF to deny the March expiry date, which was common currency in the industry, suggests that they also accepted it.
4. 1. The agreement of August, 2000 brought forward the 2nd phase of the PPF by two months and the 3rd phase by three months. The Unions contend that in agreeing to these changes that the CIF also agreed to bring forward the termination date by three months. This is emphatically refuted.
2. The full terms of the agreement on pay with the Construction Industry Committee (CIC) are set out in a letter dated the 28th August, 2000 from the Deputy Chairman of the NJIC. Nowhere in that letter does it say that the overall duration of the PPF was to be changed.
3. On the 10th April, 2000 the CIF, in a circular to all members, set out the pay terms of the PPF and informed them that " this agreement will expire in the construction industry on 30th June, 2003".
4. The PPF agreement provides for a duration of two years and nine months. No claim was made, no discussions took place and no agreement was reached on bringing forward the termination date.
5. The onus is on the trade unions to prove that an agreement exists and this they have failed to do.
The Court has been asked to adjudicate on the interpretation of an agreement accepted by both parties. The dispute concerns the expiry date of the agreement. Both sides failed to cover this point explicitly in the agreement.
Having considered the oral and written submissions the Court is of the view that on balance the Unions' position is the more reasonable one, accordingly the Court recommends that the parties accept that the agreement expires on 31st March, 2003.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
19th June, 2003______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Larry Wisely, Court Secretary.