INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 2001
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
- AND -
NATIONAL BUS AND RAIL UNION
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Ms Jenkinson
Employer Member: Mr Grier
Worker Member: Ms Ni Mhurchu
1. Change Proposals.
2. Over the past number of years the parties have been engaged in negotiations on changed operational and pay structures for on-track Machine Operators employed in the Company's infrastructure division. There are 29 Machine Operators employed to operate a variety of 17 on-track machines used for the purpose of track maintenance and renewal throughout the system. These staff are allocated to four engineering divisions i.e Dublin, Athlone, Limerick Junction and Portlaoise. The Company's final change proposals issued in November, 2002 provide for the introduction of composite pay arrangements, deployment of staff on a five over seven day working week and include regular night work. The Company's proposals, particularly in relation to pay and allowances, were rejected by the Unions. The dispute was referred to the Labour Relations Commission. A conciliation conference was held in April, 2003 but agreement was not reached. The dispute was referred to the Labour Court in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. A Court hearing was held on the 10th September, 2003.
3. 1. The new deal arrangements agreed with other grades in the Company gave those workers a quality lifestyle and enhanced their earnings. Paramount to reaching agreement with these grades was the recognition of the relativity factor in their old pay scales. However the Company proposals in respect of Machine Operators would have the effect of downgrading them in relation to their position on the pay scales and worsen their working conditions.
2. The discussions have been complicated by Management having discussions relating to the contracting out of work with individual Machine Operators.
3. It is essential to consider the relativity aspect in the pay scales of the claimants in trying to resolve the dispute.
4. Pay. In order to maintain the traditional position of Machine Operators the pay proposed for Machine Operators Grade 1 must be improved by €72.13 to €724.24. The proposed pay for Machine Operator Grade 11 must be improved by €79.72 to €692.64 Machine Operators are now being asked to perform duties that were never part of their job specification heretofore.
5. The Company's proposals to replace meal and lodging allowance, zoning payment, special payments for night work, travel time allowance, with new travel, subsistence, and night work allowances, would drastically reduce the benefits of the current allowances. The proposals are not acceptable.
6. Machine Operators will not accept any increase in the night work requirement except on a voluntary basis.
7. The list of specific flexibilities in the Company proposals is repetitive. The fact that it is not exhaustive would ensure rejection and therefore should be removed from the document.
4. 1. In return for acceptance of the Company proposals a substantial increase in pay is being offered. Hours at work would be limited to 44 per week averaged over 8 weeks or an alternative agreed cycle. Each of the hours would be paid at a composite hourly rate i.e a rate which reflects a consolidation of some regular premium payment. The new composite rate would be paid consistently each week regardless of fluctuation in actual hours within the 44 hours average.A night work premium is proposed in respect of each night turn of duty undertaken.
2. These arrangements would generate a weekly payment, without night work,of €652.11 for Machine Operators Grade 1, and €612.92 for Machine Operators Grade 2. Each night turn would attract the new night premium of €40.05.
3. It is intended to retain the zoning payment arrangements under which Machine Operators are paid as an incentive for work carried out at distant sites from their assigned headquarters. The current zoning payment is made up of a meal allowance and hours payment. The new arrangement will be a travel and subsistence allowance and will comply with Revenue Commissioners guidelines on tax free subsistence payments.
4. Where Machine Operators earnings reduce as a result of the change in pay and deployment arrangements, a compensation formula will apply.
5. It is necessary to take a number of steps to deal with the backlog of work that has built up, causing a negative impact on services. The Company has to seek an external provider to augment internal resources. This process has started. It is necessary to reorganise management of the internal resources under a centralised structure. It is also necessary to reduce working hours to a maximum weekly average of 48 in compliance with Working Time Legislation.
6. The Company wises to reach an agreement on its proposals with the Machine Operators. However it is prepared to accept that the existing staff can choose to substantially retain their present pay and arrangements, while resources are augmented by external providers. In this context, no new recruitment to the grade of Machine Operator will take place. This grade category would be phased out over time.
The issue before the Court is the Company's proposal for changes to Machine Operators grades - a process that the parties have been discussing for several years and where agreements have been concluded with many other groups.
The general principles are similar but there are specific changes required for the different groups relating to their work and work practices established over time.
The Unions are not opposed to change per se, but are concerned that the relative pay position of Machine Operators viz a viz other groups be maintained.
The Company is agreeable in principle to maintaining existing relativity.
However, the parties have not agreed what specific pay relationship is the appropriate one for the Machine Operators.
The Court is conscious that talks have been prolonged giving rise to a great deal of frustration.
The Court has considered the submissions of both sides. The Court notes the Company's need for changes in deployment, work practices, reporting structures, increased productivity and the need to augment the current resources by an external service provider to deal with the existing and growing work requirements. The Company seek the deployment of staff on a five over seven-day week and the introduction of increasing night work requirements. With this in mind, the Court recommends the following:-
The Company indicated that it was prepared to offer a voluntary severance package to two Machine Operators. For this particular group of workers the Court recommends that the Company should give serious consideration to extending the number of voluntary arrangements available.
The Court notes that as part of the 'new deal' a substantial increase in pay is offered along with the introduction of 44-hour week at a composite rate of pay and a night work premium. The Court also notes that in July 2000 the relative position of Machine Operator Grade 1 to patrol gangers and mobile gangers was 91.23%, the Court recommends that this relative position should be maintained - with the relative position between the Grade 1 and 11 remaining. The Court recommends that the large gang allowance, which applies to the mobile ganger, should not form part of the relativity.
In line with other grades the Company require a substantial amount of nightwork, quantified at 30 weeks per year for this grade, however, the Company indicated that it will accept 12 weeks. The Court concedes the Unions' claim that no increase in nightwork would be acceptable except on a voluntary basis.
The Court recommends that the Unions should accept the replacement of meal allowances and hours payments for those workers operating at sites with a travel and subsistence allowance. The Court recommends that a review of this arrangement should take place twelve months from its introduction to assess the level of reductions in benefits if any and the agreed formula for reduction in earnings should be applied to any shortfall.
The Court notes the flexibilities required by the Company as specified in the Company's proposals of 12th November 2002 clause 2Specific Flexibilitiesis a definitive list, consequently the Unions' fears about it not been exhaustive are unfounded.
Compliance with The Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997
The Court notes the necessity to reduce working hours to a maximum weekly average of 48 in order to comply with the Act of 1997, this must be observed.
The Court recommends that the 'new deal' as proposed by the Company in its document of 12th November 2002 and as amended by this recommendation should be accepted by the Unions.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
13th October, 2003______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Tom O'Dea, Court Secretary.