INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 2004
SECTION 20(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1969
- AND -
ASSOCIATION OF HIGHER CIVIL & PUBLIC SERVANTS
Chairman: Mr Duffy
Employer Member: Mr Doherty
Worker Member: Mr O'Neill
1. Hearing arising from Labour Court Recommendation No.17886.
2. In June, 2004 a dispute between the parties concerning the Company's Restructuring Proposals was the subject of a Labour Court investigation and recommendation. In lLCR 17886 the Court recommended as follows:
1. .............The Company should provide the Union with full information concerning the new structures proposed at Level 111.
2. The recruitment process to fill Level 111 posts should be stayed.
3. The Union should agree in principle to:-
(a) a new structure at Level 111 and
(b) a 30 % reduction in numbers.
4. Negotiations should resume at conciliation on a new collective agreement and the method of selection for new Level 111 posts.
5. The negotiations referred to at 4 above should be completed by July, 2004. At that point, or if disagreement is earlier recorded, outstanding issues should be referred to the Court, which will facilitate the parties with an urgent hearing.
6. Having regard to the overriding need to bring these matters to finality within a reasonable timeframe the reference to the Court should be for final adjudication, which both parties should be committed to accept."
Subsequently the parties entered discussions under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission and a number of conciliation conferences were held between July and September, 2004. Agreement was reached on a substantial proportion of the Company's Draft Document "Change and Productivity Improvement Agreement between An Post and the AHCPS"dated 3rd September, 2004. A number of core issues remained unresolved as follows:
Provision of information
Reduction in numbers
Assessment of staff
Confinement of posts
Terms and conditions
Sustaining Progress Agreement
The dispute was referred to the Labour Court on the 16th September, 2004 under Section 20 (1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1969. Both parties agreed to be bound by the Court's recommendation. A Court hearing was held on the 27th September, 2004.
3. 1. Management should indicate, on a confidential basis, the current and projected financial position of the Company in the context of restructuring.
2. In the event that the financial position of the Company justifies it, the target figures at Levels 111 and 1V in the grades represented by the Association should, for both numbers and pay calculations, be 151 (including 5 IT and 10 Project positions. Eligibility for Level 111 positions should be confined.
3. The assessment process should be open with the potential for appeal.
4. Eligible staff should be able to apply for more than two positions.
5. Interviews should not be compulsory.
6. An agreed marking system should be adopted
7. The approach proposed by the Association in relation to the unassigned staff and in relation to the VER/VS Scheme should be adopted.
8. The terms and conditions other than pay should remain unchanged.
9. The Association seeks that a general flexibility clause on the lines which it has proposed be adopted, rather than allowing the Company to assign work to any member of the Association at any place, at any time.
10. An interim award of not less than 12.5% pay increase should be granted to staff at Levels 111 and 1V.
11. An evaluation of the claimants' pay has not been carried out. This can be addressed in the context of Section 14 of the Draft Agreement.
12. The Union has the right to pursue the question of recognition at Level 11 through normal processes including ultimate referral to the Labour Court.
13. The terms of the Sustaining Progress Agreement should be paid.
4. 1. The Company is in a serious financial position and it is imperative that employees, especially its managers, embrace change in order to address the current difficulties and to best position the Company to ensure its survival.
2. It is essential that all changes in the "Change and Productivity Improvement Agreement " together with the new Level 111 structure are implemented as a matter of urgency without further amendment. These changes together with the new organisation structure are the minimum required in respect of the grades represented by the Association in order to make the Company more viable.
3. The Company is prepared to pay employees an amount of money for these changes, notwithstanding the serious commercial and financial difficulties which it faces . The level of the allowance payable under this agreement will be determined by the level of real change and productivity which is achieved rather than by the overall financial position of the Company.
4. The Company has made a formal offer of a fully pensionable, non-consolidated change/productivity allowance of 5.1% (equivalent to 8.4% non-pensionable) to the Union for the integrated proposals set out in the draft agreement and the Selection Process document. Any dilution of these proposals will result in additional cost offsetting measures being necessary, involving further changes in terms and conditions of employment and /or further work practice changes and reduction in numbers. Dilution of the proposals could seriously undermine the ability of the Company to achieve the level of change, savings and staff reductions required company wide which are an essential part of its overall recovery plan and which are currently under discussion with other unions in the Company.
In Recommendation LCR17886, the Court accepted that the company is experiencing serious financial and commercial difficulties which must be addressed as a matter of urgency. In that recommendation the Court was persuaded by the company that a reduction of 30% in the relevant grades was required and that a restructuring of posts at Level III was also warranted. The Court remains of that view.
The Court notes that in the negotiations which followed on from recommendation LCR17886, significant progress was made in identifying cost saving measures which can be implemented. There remain, however, a number of important issues of difference between the parties, which by agreement between them, have been referred back to the Court for final adjudication.
Having taken careful account of the extensive and comprehensive submissions of the parties the Court recommends as follows:
Reduction in Numbers.
The Court is satisfied that the reduction in numbers at Levels III and IV proposed by the company is necessary and should be accepted.
Filling of Posts at Level III.
The Court recommends that the following provision should apply to the filling of posts at level III:
(a) The first filling of these Posts should be by competition confined, in the first instance, to those currently employed in grades represented by AHCPS. Should a sufficient number of suitable candidates not be found in this competition unfilled posts should be opened to a company wide competition and, if necessary, to external competition. Second and subsequent filling of these posts should be by company wide competition and where necessary by external competition.
(b) The practice and procedure normally followed within the company in filling posts at this level including assessment, interview and marking should apply to this competition.
(c) Eligible staff should be confined to applying for two posts only.
The Court recommends that the following should apply in respect of Unassigned Staff:
(a) An individual who is not appointed to a post within the new structure should be designated as unassigned at their existing grade.
(b) Such staff should be offered the current VS/VER package.
(c) In the event of this not being accepted those concerned should retain their current pay and conditions of employment, (including any modifications arising from this recommendation).
(d) The company should put in place mechanisms aimed at identifying suitable project or other work to which the unassigned personnel could be deployed. In so far as possible this work should be commensurate with the individuals current grading.
(e) Except where they have been redeployed, unassigned staff should not be physically relocated for a period of three months after they are designated as unassigned, during which period the process referred to at (d) above should operate. During this period the option of VS/VER should remain open. Staff who have not obtained a suitable assignment at the expiry of this period may be relocated to a redeployment centre and the process referred to at (d) should continue.
The Court notes that the level of allowance proposed by the company is based on its computation of savings generated by the implementation of its proposals on reduced staff numbers. There is, however, a significant difference between the parties in relation to the number of suppressed posts to be taken into account and the consequential value which should be ascribed to the savings arising from the reduced target staffing level. In the Court’s view there is cogency in the arguments of both sides and the appropriate basis on which to calculate savings is by no means clear-cut.
Negotiations on restructuring have been concluded with two other unions representing staff and are at an advanced stage with a third union. In the case of those groups in respect of whom negotiations have been completed an allowance of 10.5% has been agreed. In the Court's view it is unreasonable and unrealistic to expect that the grades associated with this referral should accept a lesser allowance. Furthermore, on balance the Court is satisfied that an allowance in this amount is justified by the savings likely to be achieved and on the formula normally used to distribute savings. Accordingly the Court recommends that a productivity allowance be paid on the basis proposed by the company, including phasing, but that the amount of the allowance be increased to 10.5%.
Terms Applicable to Level III Posts.
In its proposal concerning the terms and conditions which should be applicable to those appointed to Level III posts, and new appointments to other grades represented by AHCPS, the Company have identified three categories of potential appointees as follows:
(1) Employees currently serving at Assistant Principal Officer / Professional Accountant 2 level or higher who are appointed to Level III posts,
(3) All other company employees or new staff who are appointed to any grade represented by AHCPS, including Level III.
The company have proposed that appointees in category (1) would retain their existing conditions on a personal to holder basis and would receive the agreed productivity allowance. Those in category (2) would be required to accept the new terms and conditions applicable to Level III except where the appointee would suffer a reduction in an existing benefit, such as annual leave. In such cases those serving in grades represented by AHCPS would retain their existing conditions. It is further proposed that appointees in this category will also retain the productivity allowance.
In the case of category (3) appointees, it is proposed that they should be required to accept the terms and conditions applicable to their appointment. Moreover, it is proposed that the productivity allowance will not be payable to those in this category.
In so far as it is not proposed to alter the current conditions of serving staff in category (1) there is no requirement for the Court to address the terms which should apply to this category and nothing which follows should be regarded as applying to those in that category.
In so far as categories (2) and (3) are concerned the Court is of the view that the most helpful course for it to adopt is to recommend on the terms and conditions which it considers appropriate to Level III (the terms and conditions applicable to any other AHCPS grades are not before the Court). It is then proposed to recommend on appropriate adjustments to those conditions which may be necessary in certain circumstances, irrespective of the grade which the appointee previously occupied.
In that regard the Court recommends as follows:
- Working Hours.
It is noted that AHCPS accept that, as manager and non-overtime grades, its members already work up to and in excess of 37.5 hours per week. In these circumstances the company proposal on standard working hours be accepted.
The standard annual leave allowance attaching to these posts should be 25 days per annum, excluding Good Friday. There should be an additional days leave after three years in the post and a further days leave after six years in the post, thus providing an entitlement to 27 days after six years in the post.
Where staff are appointed to these posts, either in the first or subsequent filling, who at the time of their appointment have more favourable leave entitlements, this more favourable entitlement should be retained on a personal to holder basis.
The Court does not consider it reasonable to require staff who are currently members of its non-contributory pension scheme to pay a contribution on being appointed to a Level III post. Accordingly, the Court recommends that those who are non-contributing members of the pension scheme at the time of their appointment should not be required to pay a contribution. Staff recruited externally may be required to contribute to the scheme in the amount proposed by the company.
Should the company require a change in the current contribution arrangements for existing staff, this should be pursued on a company wide basis with all relevant trade unions.
5 over 6 Attendance.
Noting that these are management and non-overtime grades the Court accepts that a 5 over 6 attendance pattern may be necessary in certain circumstances. The Court recommends that this facility should be available to the company in those posts at Level III where it is necessary having regard to the exigencies of the business.
The Court recommends that the flexibility clause proposed by the Association should be adopted. This should be reviewed after a period of 2 years.
The company’s proposals involve the continued payment of the productivity allowance to those promoted from grades represented by AHCPS. However, it is proposed that other staff promoted to AHCPS grades would be required to relinquish the allowance. The Court is not convinced by the company’s reasoning for this distinction.
The Court recommends that where a staff member already in receipt of a productivity allowance is appointed to a post covered by this referral they should retain the allowance.
Evaluation of Pay.
Having regard to the current circumstances of the company the Court does not recommend a review of the pay of those associated with these claims.
The question of Union recognition for posts at the equivalent of Level II has already been dealt with by the Court in LCR 16996. The parties should proceed within the parameters of that recommendation.
With the modifications necessary to implement this recommendation the draft Change and Productivity Improvement Agreement should be accepted.
The payment of the increases provided for by Sustaining Progress are a company wide issue and should be resolved with all staff unions.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
7th October, 2004______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Tom O'Dea, Court Secretary.