INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 2004
SECTION 33(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1946
ASSOCIATION OF ELECTRICAL CONTRACTORS (IRELAND)
ELECTRICAL CONTRACTORS ASSOCIATION
- AND -
TECHNICAL, ENGINEERING AND ELECTRICAL UNION
Chairman: Mr Duffy
Employer Member: Mr Grier
Worker Member: Ms Ni Mhurchu
1. Dispute concerning the interpretation of Registered Employment Agreement (REA) for the Electrical Contracting Industry.
2. The dispute arises as a result of the Employers request for a six month pay pause in relation to the application of the annual analogue pay increase to electricians and apprentices. The pause is sought by the Employers pending the implementation of the full terms of the agreement for those contractors not in compliance with the agreement. The Union claims that under the REA the Employers must apply the analogue increase on the due date ( 1st April) of each year and that, in seeking the pay pause, the Employers are in breach of the REA. On the 8th April, 2004 the Union submitted a request to the Court for an interpretation of the REA. A Court hearing was held on the 2nd June, 2004.
3. 1. The Employers do not have the facility to place pre-conditions on the application of the REA.
2. Clause 25 of the REA sets out the method of determining the wages in the Industry.
3. The Union is not aware of the identity of contractors presently not in compliance with the REA and the Employers have refused to indicate to which contractors they are referring.
4. In relation to additional requirements outlined by the Employers some of these relate directly to Government or Government agencies. These matters should be addressed by the Employers with the relevant State Agencies.
5. A review of the National Joint Industrial Council agreement is taking place where both parties are currently negotiating potential modifications to the Agreement. This is the appropriate forum for any change proposed by the Employers.
4. 1. Employers are suffering difficult trading conditions because of unfair practices within the industry.
2. The Employers support the REA. It is a necessary foundation of the industry as long as its obligations extend to all contractors operating in the industry.
3. The E-PACE inspection system is the instrument by which the Employers hope to create a level playing pitch for all Electrical Contractors in the industry. The Employers have proposed a fast tracking of the E-PACE organisation which would bring the operation down to a 2.5 year time frame.
4.The Employers also face the problem of a seeming support by Governmental Bodies in accepting tenders from electrical contractors at rates, which are obviously outside the ability of these contractors to pay the legal pay rates and conditions of the industry.
5. The Employers seek a six month pay pause in order to alleviate the hardship on members by virtue of non-compliance within the industry. With the pay pause and the accelerated inspection system the Employers envisage that at this time next year a more unified industry would exist.
The dispute came before the Court by way of an application by TEEU under Section 33 (1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1946 for the decision of the Court as to the interpretation of the Registered Employment Agreement for the Electrical Contracting Industry, as varied for the tenth time with effect from 1st April, 2003.
Clause 25 of the Agreement provides a mechanism by which the rate of pay of workers encompassed by it will be reviewed annually, on 1st September, by reference to the rate of pay applicable to comparable workers in a range of agreed analogues employments.The Agreement further provides that the rate so established shall take effect from 1st April, of the following year. There is no disagreement between the parties as to the meaning and intent of this provision.
This referral arose from the stated intention of the AECI to apply a six month pay pause in the current year. They contend that this is necessary because of non-compliance with the terms of the Agreement by a number of contractors who are not members of any association. They say that the level of non-compliance is undermining the competitiveness of those in compliance, including the members of AECI.
The matter before the Court relates to the interpretation of the relevant provision of the Agreement. The terms in which the Clause at issue is expressed does not provide any scope for ambiguity. It prescribes in clear and precise terms that the outcome of the analogue review is to take effect from Ist April in each year.
Accordingly it is the Decision of the Court that the unilateral imposition of a pay pause as proposed by the AECI would constitute a contravention of the Agreement. The parties should now complete the process of determining the rate to apply from 1st April, 2004 in the manner prescribed by the Agreement and should do so without delay.
Finally, the Court is concerned at the submissions made in relation to compliance with the Agreement. In that regard the attention of the parties is drawn to Section 10 (1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1969 and Section 32 (1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1946 both of which provide a mechanism by which the terms of an REA can be enforced. The Court would suggest that the parties co-operate with each other in using these provisions to address the issues highlighted to the Court in the course of the hearing.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
10th June, 2004______________________
Enquiries concerning this Decision should be addressed to Tom O'Dea, Court Secretary.