INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 2001
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
TARA MINES LIMITED
(REPRESENTED BY IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Mr Duffy
Employer Member: Mr Grier
Worker Member: Mr O'Neill
1. Union/Management agreement.
2. The Company has recently been acquired by a Swedish multi-national. The new owners expect a profitable return from the mine before the end of the current year. There has been considerable rationalization and cost savings in recent years, together with major investment by the former owners. Management have decided that the way to achieve increases in production is to change the underground operation from 5½day working to a full 7 day, 4 cycle shift. The Union is opposed to 7 day working. The Union are also seeking a number of concessions including improvements in sick-pay, pension, annual leave, early retirement and incorporation of miners bonus into hourly rate.
The dispute could not be resolved at local level and was the subject of conciliation conferences on the 9th and 16th January, 2004, under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission. Following intervention from the Labour Court it was agreed that an independent facilitator would attempt to seek a mutually agreeable solution at local level. Proposals on a co-operation agreement covering all aspects of the Underground Mine Operation put forward by the independent chairperson on the 27th February, 2004 were recommended for acceptance by the Union negotiators but were narrowly rejected in a subsequent ballot. As agreement was not reached, the dispute was referred to the Labour Court on the 27th January, 2004, in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. A Labour Court hearing took place on the 16th March, 2004.
3.1 The Union claim that the Company's objective could be achieved without working a 7 day, 4 cycle shift.
2. There are enough volunteers available to carry out any weekend overtime required.
4.1 The Company rejects the Unions position on the grounds of lack of certainty of production and costs. The Company need a properly structured 7 day roster if it is to be viable.
2. The Company has invested substantially in the mine over the last number of years and will continue with capital investment over the coming years.
The dispute came before the Court having been the subject of lengthy discussions locally and at conciliation. It was then agreed that further discussions take place facilitated by an experienced independent chairperson nominated by the Court. Following these discussions, the independent chairperson put forward detailed proposals in full settlement of all issues. Whilst these proposals were recommended for acceptance by the Union negotiators they were narrowly rejected in a subsequent ballot.
The Court has given careful consideration to the submissions made by the parties at the hearing. It has also considered the proposals which were formulated by the nominated independent chairperson. The Court believes that these proposals address all of the major issues raised by the Union and in particular conceded to the Union their position in relation to 4 cycle shift working. In that regard, the Court accepts that the Company has made out a cogent case for the introduction of such a shift so as to optimise efficiency and the achievement of production targets.
Nonetheless the Court believes that it should support the independent chairperson's proposals regarding the continuance of overtime. It does so on the basis that the situation be closely monitored having regard to the requirements of the Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997, the overall imperative of maintaining acceptable standards of health and safety protection and the need to achieve the Company's production targets.
Taking the independent chairperson's proposals as a whole the Court is satisfied that they represent a fair and balanced approach to the issues in dispute and are at the outer limits of what could realistically be regarded as reasonable or obtainable in the current circumstances. For this reason the Court can see no basis upon which it could recommend any significant improvement on those proposals.
Having regard to all the circumstances of this case the Court recommends that the Company should reinstate the proposals which were made by the independent chairperson with the following modifications:
A review of the pension arrangements should take place by the end of 2005. This review should take into account the levels of pensionable pay of those associated with this claim relative to earnings due, regard being had to the financial position of the Company at that time and the financial standing of the pension fund.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Jackie Byrne, Court Secretary.