INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 2004
SECTION 33(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1946
CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY FEDERATION
- AND -
IRISH CONGRESS OF TRADE UNIONS
Chairman: Ms Jenkinson
Employer Member: Mr Doherty
Worker Member: Mr O'Neill
1. Interpretation of the Construction Industry (Wages And Conditions of Employment) Registered Employment Agreement (REA).
2. The dispute arises from the different interpretations by the parties of Clause 7 of the Third Schedule of the REA concerning Early Starts.
On the 29th April, 2004 the Unions submitted a request to the Court for an interpretation of Clause 7. A Court hearing was held on the 20th September, 2004.
3. 1. There are two aspects to the dispute regarding the interpretation of Clause 7. In relation to the term "on occasion" the Unions understanding is that it does not mean that Employers can require workers to commence work an hour earlier, on an ongoing basis. "On occasion" implies a certain restriction i.e. that it is designed to be availed of intermittently as circumstances require. The Unions do not accept that it is a broad enabling formula which allows the Employers to avail of it in every conceivable circumstance.
2. In relation to "normal starting time" the REA does not define what normal starting time is. The long accepted and well established custom and practice in the industry is that normal starting time is 8.30 a.m. The Unions are clear that the early start involved one hour back from 8.30 a.m.
3. The construction unions in their literature to members have consistently advised that 8.30. a.m. is the industry starting time. Posters displayed in canteens and construction site offices clearly indicate this.
4. If the CIF contention that normal starting time in some areas is 8.00 a.m. and if the unrestricted interpretation of "on occasion" is upheld many construction workers could find themselves forced to commence work at 7.00 a.m. or earlier. This would cause major inconvenience, and pose a significant risk to health and safety particular in wintertime and during inclement weather.
5. 1. Clause 7 provides for a limited amount of flexibility so that if the need arises on a particular site, or for a particular company, or in a particular locality or sector of the industry, work may start up to one hour earlier than the normal starting time, whatever that might be on that particular site or in the company or locality or sector of the industry concerned.
2. The REA does not set out what normal starting time in the industry should be. The language in the clause, perhaps with the exception of the word 'official', is straightforward and its meaning is clear. If this were not the case this issue would have been before the Labour Court long before this as this clause was written in 1976. No specific dispute in this area has been brought to the attention of the CIF for many years.
3. If a particular union has a problem with the manner in which the clause is applied at site level, then the dispute should be processed through the agreed procedure, or referred to the Labour Court under Section 32 of the Industrial Relations Act, 1946 if it is alleged that a breach of the REA has taken place.
The hearing arose from an application under Section 33 (1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1946 by the Construction Industry Committee of Irish Congress of Trade Unions to the Labour Court for an interpretation of Clause 7 of the Third Schedule, of the Registered Employment Agreement (Construction Industry Wages and Conditions of Employment). The clause relates to Early Starts and states:-
"Where, on occasion, an official early start is required, no extra payment shall apply, but the normal finishing time after which overtime rates shall apply shall be brought back "pro rata". The early start in this context is limited to an hour before normal working time."
ICTU also required the Court to find that normal starting time in the industry is 8.30 am.
Clause 7, Early Start
Having examined the terms of the Clause referred to, and having considered the views of the parties expressed in their oral and written submissions, the Court finds that Clause 7 applies to those workers who are required on unusual/exceptional occasions to start work up to one hour prior to the normal starting time for that site. In such circumstances, no extra payment shall apply for the early start, however normal finishing time will be up to one hour earlier, after which overtime rates shall apply.
Normal Starting Time
The Court notes that the Registered Agreement does not contain a clause stipulating the normal starting time within the industry. Therefore, the Court is unable to give an interpretation of this issue under Section 33 (1). However, the Court is aware that arrangements have been agreed between employers and employees at local level, which have applied normal starting times varying from 7.30 am to 8.30 am.
The Court so finds.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
23rd September, 2004______________________
Enquiries concerning this Decision should be addressed to Tom O'Dea, Court Secretary.