INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 2001
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Mr Duffy
Employer Member: Mr Grier
Worker Member: Mr. Somers
1. Manning levels.
2. In the Survival Plan agreed by the Company and the Union in November 2001, it was agreed that the manning levels for the Post Services (internal delivery mails office memos files etc) would be reduced from 11 to 8. Management later received an application for voluntary severance for 1 member, leaving 7 workers in the Post Service. The Union sought restoration of the numbers. The Company refused saying the level of work could now be handled by 7 workers rather than 8. The Union responded by saying it would agree the change in return for increased pay/grading, if not the Union wanted the numbers restored. The Company offered a once off payment of €1,500 to each of the staff concerned. The Union rejected this offer.
The dispute could not be resolved at local level and was the subject of a conciliation conference under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission. As agreement was not reached the dispute was referred to the Labour Court on the 24th July, 2003 in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. A Labour Court hearing took place on the 13th November, 2003, the earliest date suitable to the parties.
3.1 The Union claims that it's members are not interested in any financial redress or once off lump sum payment, but instead, require the Survival Plan terms to be honoured. Management have increased their offer to €2,000 per person involved.
2. The Company has broken and breached the Survival Plan Agreement reached with the Union. The Union requires the Company to respect procedures and due process and that any changes to agreements can only occur following prior consultation, negotiation and revised agreement.
3. The affects of the Company persisting with this vacancy are as follows:
- Job rotation and maintenance of skills and up-skilling are being prevented
- Rotation through post and distribution system is affected
- Work appropriate to Operative Grades is being undertaken by Management Personnel
- Early starts have increased
- Time in lieu is excessive
- Times for annual leave availability is affected
- The physical demands of the job have become more demanding on those remaining.
4.1It is Management's intention to ensure that the Post Section continues to be a valuable asset to the organisation. This can only be achieved if it operates effectively and efficiently within the flexibility to match manpower levels to business requirements. It is not the case that the Post Section staff are being asked to work harder or longer for the eighth person. The work load has dropped significantly.
2. The Company recognises the commitment and loyalty of the Post Section employees. It also recognised, that like many other organisations, they have gone through significant change. The Company sought on a without precedent basis to buy out the fixed number of employees in the area, without damaging the status of any employees currently deployed there.
3. The Union rejected the once-off payment offered by the Company and would only consider a solution that provided ongoing recognition. This was unacceptable to the Company as it would mean the cost exists and increases every year for the rest of the individual employment in the Company. Any increase in basic pay creates an increase in shift pay, pension contributions, employers PRSI and overtime payments. These figures would increase further in line with every pay award. This would place an unwarranted cost on the Company and would be commercially suicidal.
It is clear that a valid subsisting agreement exists between the parties which provides for the deployment of eight staff within the section concerned. Circumstances frequently change after an industrial relations agreement is concluded which makes its terms more or less attractive to one or other party than was originally envisaged. Nonetheless parties are expected to honour their agreement for its duration or until it is voluntarily altered through negotiation, including where necessary, third party adjudication.
In the present case the management contents that the volume of work assigned to the post section has reduced significantly and that the retention of the eighth post is not justified. The Union, for its part, contends that the volume has in fact increased. The Union have, however, acknowledged that if it can be demonstrated that the full agreed staffing levels are no longer required they will take this into account in further negotiations with the Company.
In the Court's view, if the retention of the eighth post is no longer justified by the volume of work required, it would not be unreasonable for the Company to seek a change in the agreed staffing levels. However, the actual activity level of work in the section, relative to what it was when the agreement was concluded, needs to be determined as an objective fact before the Court can offer a definitive view on whether or not the agreed staffing level should be changed.
The Court recommends that the parties engage in a joint exercise to ascertain the true position in this regard. The exercise should be commenced as soon as possible and conclude not later than three months from the date of this recommendation. If the parties fail to agree the issue should be referred back to the Court for a final recommendation.
In the interim the current agreement should continue to apply. Accordingly, the Court recommends that the Company should fill the vacant post on a strictly temporary basis pending final resolution of this dispute or the issuance of a final recommendation by the Court in accordance with the preceding paragraph of this recommendation.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Jackie Byrne, Court Secretary.