INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 2004
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
NORSE MERCHANT FERRIES
(REPRESENTED BY IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Mr McGee
Employer Member: Mr Grier
Worker Member: Mr Nash
1. 1. Bonus 2. Shift Arrangements.
2. The dispute concerns 22 workers employed by the Company as General Terminal Operatives at the Alexandria Road Terminal.
In 1999 an Agreement was reached between the Company and the Union under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission on a bonus scheme based on cargo tonnage. Since the introduction of the scheme tonnages and bonus earnings have increased very significantly, and continue to rise. In 2004 the bonus was in the region of €4,500 per worker and the Company proposed to buy out the bonus at 1.5 times the value over the last three years €4,334 gross per employee. The Union rejected the proposal
The current shift pattern in operation comprises a two cycle each day of the week including Sunday, an early and a late shift. On Sunday, the current shift pattern ends at 20000 hours but a local agreement has been in place for the past three years whereby employees work overtime until 2200 hours, when the last sailing of the week is scheduled to depart. Currently the same shift of employees switch onto the early shift pattern on Monday morning to work on the first arrival at 0500 hours, leaving a maximum of seven hours rest between shifts. In late 2004 workers expressed concerns in relation to possible breaches of Health and Safety legislation and Working Time legislation because of the hours worked. In local discussions the Company put forward a number of proposals for Sunday working the latest of which suggested that workers would work a split shift comprising four hours in the morning and four hours in the evening on Sunday and would then not report for work until at least 1700 hours on Monday, increasing the rest period between shifts to 19 hours. There would be no requirement for employees to work overtime on Sunday with this proposal but the Company state that workers would continue to be paid two hours at double time (€60 plus €20 to cover travel costs) as a guaranteed ongoing payment for every Sunday worked. The Union rejected the proposal .
The dispute was referred to the Labour Relations Commission. A conciliation conference was held but agreement was not reached. The dispute was referred to the Labour Court on the 9th August, 2005 in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. A Court hearing was held on the 20th October, 2005.
3. 1.Bonus.The Union wants to retain the bonus and apply it to all employees going forward. The Company has altered the terms of employment for new employees without Union agreement and consequently a number of new employees have been given terms of employment which do not include their entitlement to the bonus. The bonus system has benefitted the Company and is inceptive for workers. The value per worker under the 1999 Agreement stands at €5,000.
2.Shift Arrangements. The claimants have given full cooperation to the Company in difficult times to restore its viability and in that regard workers maximised the shift patterns. The workers have unanimously rejected the Company's proposals for the introduction of a split shift. If the Company are to change the existing agreed shift patterns as covered by the Comprehensive Agreement it must come up with a structure that allows workers adequate rest periods which comply fully with all aspects of Health and Safety and comply with Working Time legislation.
4. 1.Bonus.The bonus scheme is fundamentally flawed, in that it bears no relationship to the profitability of the business, the performance of workers involved or the amount of work carried out by the claimants, who regularly work less than their contracted hours as a result of vessel arrival and departure times. Because of changes in the business the bonus scheme is no longer proportionate to the contribution of staff benefitting from it nor equitable for the Company or the majority of staff involved in the business. Continuance of the bonus scheme would be financially detrimental to the Company in that its clear link is to volume only and not to productivity or profit. It bears no relationship to the Company's financial position.The Company's last offer of 1.5 X last three years average, is fair and reasonable in all the circumstances.
2.Shift Arrangements. The Union requested that the current Sunday/Monday working arrangements be resolved in late 2004 for Health and Safety reasons. The Company has put forward proposals to resolve the mater which have been consistently rejected without any counter proposal as to how the matter could be satisfactorily resolved. The Company's latest proposal is significantly beneficial to workers and resolves the issue while generating significant additional benefits in terms of time off without impacting on remuneration.
The Court recommends as follows:
Bonus:- The present level of the bonus (at the date of this Recommendation) should remain. The question of whether and how the bonus should increase going forward for future employees should be the subject of further discussion between the parties.
Shift Operation:- The parties should have further discussions aimed at devising a structure which conforms with the Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
21st December, 2005______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Tom O'Dea, Court Secretary.