INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 13(9); INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT; 1969
COCA COLA BOTTLERS
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Ms Jenkinson
Employer Member: Mr Grier
Worker Member: Mr. Somers
1. Appeal of Rights Commissioners Recommendation IR15161/03/GF
2. The case concerns four workers who were employed in the Western Region. The workers were in receipt of an entertainment allowance up to late 1994/early 1995, when, according to the Company, the allowance was brought out and discontinued. The Company claims that the workers signed an agreement in 1991 to this effect. The Union's case is that the workers were misled, and that they only found out in 2003 that the allowance was continued to be paid to employees in other regions (Dublin and Munster). The Union sought re-instatement of the allowance, and retrospective payment of nine years which equated to almost €7,000. The Company rejected the claim, and the dispute was referred to a Rights Commissioner. His findings and recommendation were as follows;
"Given the evidence I cannot but come to the conclusion they were not clear about the continuous payment of the allowance. Perhaps the parties may agree to negotiate its eventual removal by a final payment or use the Cork settlement as a guide. I do not propose to deal with this matter. However I am recommending the claimants be paid the sum of €2000 compensation of the alleged arrears complaints."
The Company appealed the recommendation to the Labour Court on the 11th of March 2004, in accordance with section 13(9) of the Industrial Relations Act 1969. A Labour Court hearing took place on the 17th of June 2004.
3. 1.Different regions had different agreements, and the Company regularised these in time. The workers could have been in no doubt about the agreement that was signed in 1991.
2. Compensation covering all losses was paid, including loss of entertainment allowances. (Details supplied to the Court)
3. Conceding the claim would lead to a number of knock- on claims for restoration of other allowances already bought out.
4. 1. The withdrawal of the allowance was achieved under false pretences i.e. Dublin and Munster "red-circled" reps still hold same.
2. The four workers were denied an allowance that was part of a long standing condition of employment.
3. The entertainment allowance was never bought out by the Company. The workers should have the facility to opt for the buy out formula of 2.5 years the loss, or retain the allowance as currently available to the other employee.
The Court has considered the submissions of both parties. According to the Company, an entertainment allowance paid to the four claimants in the Western Region was abolished in 1991; consequently, there can be no claim for retrospective application of the allowance. The Union is of the view that the allowance was paid until late 1994/ early 1995, when payment ceased following the intervention of a member of management from Dublin, who stated at the time that the allowance was no longer applicable at national level.
When, in 2003, the Union discovered that the allowance was been paid in Dublin and Munster, it sought its re-instatement.
The Court is satisfied that the agreement concluded and accepted by the claimants in 1991 clearly abolished the payment of the entertainment allowance. Each of the claimants signed and accepted terms, which included a lead-in payment for the acceptance of the agreement itself, and compensation payments in respect of other aspects of the agreement. Therefore, the Court accepts that its application, following that agreement, was in error and, accordingly, the Court does not recommend re-instatement.
The fact that the allowance was paid to the claimants for a number of years following the 1991 agreement, coupled with different terms applying at different times both in Dublin and Munster, caused a lot of confusion on the issue of the Company's attitude to the allowance.
The Court is of the view that, due to this confusion and an inconsistent application of the allowance, it was not unreasonable for the claimants to feel frustrated over their perceived deprivation of the allowance. Therefore, in all the circumstances of this case, the Court recommends that the Company should pay the sum of €2,000 to each claimant in full and final settlement of this claim.
Accordingly, the Court varies the Rights Commissioner's recommendation and, in this regard, upholds the Company's appeal.
The Court so decides.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
2nd July, 2004______________________
Enquiries concerning this Decision should be addressed to Ciaran O'Neill, Court Secretary.