INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 2004
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
(REPRESENTED BY IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Mr Duffy
Employer Member: Mr Pierce
Worker Member: Mr Nash
2. The issue in dispute relates to a decision by the Company to dismiss four operatives by reason of gross misconduct. While the offences committed by the individuals are not in dispute the Union maintain that dismissal is too severe and that a lesser sanction would be more appropriate in the circumstances.
The dismissal of the four individuals resulted from clocking violations where the individuals were either absent from the Company premises while clocked in, and then clocked out by other employees or were involved in the clocking out of their colleagues. The Employees did not deny these allegations. The Union sought a collective disciplinary meeting with the Company and rejected individual disciplinary hearings. Management took the decision to dismiss all four employees based on breaches of various provisions of the Company's Disciplinary Code.
The dispute could not be resolved at local level and was the subject of a conciliation conference under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission. As agreement was not reached, the dispute was referred to the Labour Court on the 9th February, 2005 in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. A Labour Court hearing took place on the 15th March, 2005.
3.1 The Union does not under any circumstances condone any kind of clocking abuse. While the Union have conceded without prejudice that clocking irregularities may have taken place, this does not include a concession that the four individuals were involved in theft of Company property. The Company view the time absent as theft of Company time but time is not Company property.
2. There is not evidence that the individuals concerned were involved in systematic abuse.
3. The decision to dismiss was far too harsh because:
- The management in the Company are quite lax and strict discipline has never been enforced.
- If production levels are reached, employees are no longer required to continue working, this can happen as early as 15.30.
- If production levels are not met, employees are not required to work after 16.15 as this is designated clean up time.
5. The object of the discipline has been met. In these circumstances the dismissals are too harsh a penalty.
4.1 The conduct of the four employees constitutes a flagrant breach of the Company/Union agreement under various provisions of the Disciplinary Code (details supplied).
2.The employees as members of the Union, are covered by the terms of the agreement. Under the agreement, breaches of the above clauses should be dealt with under the disciplinary procedure. This procedure is an individual procedure and at no point refers to disciplinary matters being handled on a collective basis.
3. The employees have accepted, through the Union, that they did in fact engage in unacceptable conduct through their actions.
4. It is the Company's view that this type of behaviour has absolutely no place within the Company and in accordance with the terms of the Company/Union Agreement, the employer was wholly justified in dismissing the individuals by reasons of gross misconduct.
In line with normal practice, the Company/Union agreement requires that issues concerning breaches of discipline should be dealt with individually through the disciplinary procedure. The Union should accept that in all future cases the disciplinary procedure will be adhered to in that respect and that matters such as those which gave rise to this dispute will be processed on an individual basis.
While the individuals concerned in the clocking irregularity were undoubtedly guilty of misconduct, having regard to all of the circumstances of the case, the Court believes that dismissal was too severe a sanction. The Court recommends that the claimants be reinstated and that the period from 19th January to 1st April, 2005 be regarded as one of suspension without pay. Each of the claimants should also receive a final written warning.
The Court notes that the employer categorised the conduct of the claimants as amounting to theft. In the Court's view this imputation is unwarranted and should be withdrawn.
The Court so recommends.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
31st March, 2005______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Jackie Byrne, Court Secretary.