INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 2004
SECTION 13(9), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1969
CONNACHT GOLD CO-OPERATIVE SOCIETY LIMITED
- AND -
(REPRESENTED BY SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION)
Chairman: Ms Jenkinson
Employer Member: Mr Murphy
Worker Member: Mr O'Neill
1. Appeal of Rights Commissioners Recommendation R-032183-Ir-05/Gf.
2. The worker commenced employment in the Animal Feed Mill in Ballaghadereen in February, 2000. In March, 2000, he was transferred to the Weighbridge area. Towards the end of 2003 he became more involved in dealing with customers' phone queries. The Co-op's case is that the worker has an aggressive personality and that this started to cause problems when a number of complaints were received from customers and co-workers. (The Union denies that this is the case.) As a result he was transferred to a day job where his conduct could be monitored. However, in October / November,2004, further incidents took place resulting in a disciplinary hearing on the 19th of November, 2004. The outcome was that the worker was issued with a written warning and moved into a production job which did not involve any contact with customers. The Union claims that he will suffer a loss of earnings in the new job. The Co-op. maintains that there was no loss of earnings for the worker. (There was a dispute between the parties as to a bonus of €1,000 x 4 per annum being paid to the worker).
The dispute was referred to a Rights Commissioner and his recommendation was as follows:-
" I have considered this matter carefully and I have come to the conclusion the management were correct in taking the action against the claimant. However, I believe the offer to move on to a training programme for the appropriate manner to deal with the customers is a sensible one and I advise the claimant to accept it."
The Union appealed the recommendation to the Labour Court on the 30th of May, 2005, in accordance with Section 13(9) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1969. A Labour Court hearing took place on the 25th of October, 2005, in Mullingar.
3. 1. The Union initially accepted the Rights Commissioner's recommendation on the basis that there would be no loss of earnings involved for the worker.
2. The offer to send the worker on a training course was never made by the Co-op. In fact the Union had to request it by letter of the 1st of December, 2004.
3. The Union denies many of the allegations made by the Co-op against the worker.
4. 1. Every effort was made by local management to bring about a change in the worker's attitude but this was to no avail. It is imperative that all customers are treated with respect and courtesy.
2. The disciplinary action taken could have been more severe. The worker has been given an opportunity to develop a new career in a different area. He can apply for upcoming jobs the same as everyone else.
3. There will be no loss of earnings in the new position despite the basic rate being reduced in October, 2005. As the worker's new job carries a 25% shift premium he will actually earn considerably more.
The Union appealed the Rights Commissioner's Recommendation. In its appeal to the Court the Union sought implementation of the Recommendation, protection of the appellant's earnings and implementation of training in customer relations for him.
The case before the Rights Commissioner had arisen due to disciplinary action taken by the Company against the appellant which included a written warning and a transfer from his position as Customer Services and Weighbridge Administrator to a position in production. The Rights Commissioner upheld the Company's actions and recommended that the claimant should accept training in customer relations.
The Court accepts that the conditions attaching to the transfer involved a change in his rates of pay which did not take effect for a period of eight months thereby allowing him to benefit from the higher wages for a considerable length of time. The Company stated that even with the reduction in wages - as shift premium is paid in the production area - there should be no significant loss of earnings. The Union say that the appellant will now be at a loss of a bonus payment which could yield approximately €1,000 four times per annum. The appellant never actually received this bonus payment. However, the Union maintains that had he not been transferred he would have received it in the future. The Company denied the existence of any such bonus payment.
In upholding the Rights Commissioner's Recommendation that the action taken by the Company was appropriate in the circumstances, the Court cannot accept that the appellant should benefit as a result of disciplinary action taken against him. This would be the case if the Union's claim for the bonus payment were upheld. Therefore, the Court accepts that the conditions attaching to the transfer of the claimant to the production area are appropriate in the context of the disciplinary action taken.
With regard to the Union's claim for implementation of training for the appellant in customer relations, the Court notes that the Company has given him an assurance that it is prepared to consider his suitability for future vacancies if he demonstrates a change in attitude and if feedback from mill employees is positive. Therefore, in his present role the Court does not consider that the training referred to is appropriate.
The Court varies the Rights Commissioner's recommendation accordingly.
The Court so decides.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
15th November, 2005.______________________
Enquiries concerning this Decision should be addressed to Ciaran O'Neill, Court Secretary.