INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 2004
SECTION 20(2), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1969
- AND -
COMMUNICATIONS WORKERS UNION
Chairman: Ms Jenkinson
Employer Member: Mr Murphy
Worker Member: Mr O'Neill
1. Review of Working Hours.
2. In 2002 the Union and the Company concluded an agreement entitled "Revised Working Arrangements at the Dublin Mails Centre". The Agreement provided for the introduction of totally new staff rosters aligned with variable contracts of 21hours, 26 hours, 37.5 hours and 48 hours per week. The Agreement provides for a review of the rosters to be conducted on a joint basis. A number of attempts have been made at local negotiations to conclude such a review without success. The most recent Company proposal was rejected following a ballot of the workforce.
The dispute was referred to the Labour Relations Commission. A number of Conciliation Conferences were held but agreement was not reached. Following the final Conciliation Conference in July, 2006 the Union undertook to ascertain the reasons for workers' rejection of the Company's proposals. The areas of difficulty for staff have been identified as follows
1. Banking of hours for 21 hour contract staff.
3. Reduction of Twilight Attendances (6.00 pm -1.30 am).
4. Duty Competition i.e. SKS/Video Coding.
5. Applying for Contract Level of Choice.
6. 48 Hour Contracts.
7. Up- grading of Auxiliary Postal Sorter staff.
8. Exit Scheme.
The dispute was referred to the Labour Court on the 1st September, 2006 in accordance with Section 20(2) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1969. Both parties agreed to be bound by the Court's Recommendation. A Court hearing was held on the 28th November, 2006.
3. 1. Banking of Hours:- The Company's proposals contain a provision that 21- hour contract staff would bank one hour per week and would work these hours during the Christmas pressure period, therefore changing their attendance liability to 42 hours. The change, were it to take place, impacts significantly on staff. The Union seeks that 21 hour contract staff should continue to work as they currently do and not be required to" bank hours"
2. Compensation:- With Inward Coding now fully operational and the Company not having increased the establishment of the staffing levels in the RWA staff feel that there should be some form of compensation for absorbing this work at current staffing levels.
3. Reduction of Twilight Attendances:- This duty attendance has been performed primarily by female employees due to their family/ domestic circumstances. Under the Company's proposals there would be a drastic reduction in the amount of Twilight Duty Attendances in the DMC. This reduction in Twilight Duty attendances indirectly discriminates against them on the grounds of gender,marital and family status. The Union has identified work areas within the DMC where a number of Midnight Duty Attendances could be changed to Twilight Duty Attendances without impacting on Plant performance.
4. Duty Competition i.e. SKS/Video Coding:- In all duties competitions under the RWA common seniority has been the deciding factor in the allocation of vacant duties. Under the Company's proposals this factor would be removed. Staff who are SKS/Video Coding- trained would be precluded from applying for any other duties outside of SKS Video Coding duties in the first instance as they are limited to applying for SKS/Video Coding duties only. This would mean that senior staff would lose out on the allocation of duties in the Plant to staff with less seniority. Also, staff who wish to apply for SKS/Video Coding but are not trained are precluded from applying for these duties. The Union is seeking an amendment to the Company's proposal in relation to this matter.
5. Applying for Contract Level of Choice:- The duties competitions should be run in accordance with Section 11.3 of the RWA. Under the Company's proposals, staff would not be allowed to apply for the Contract Level of their choice. Staff would be restricted to applying for the Contract Level which they are currently performing. The Union also believe that no member of staff should be forced to move from their current contract level either, as staff have many commitments, such as financial, based on their current contract level.
6. 48 Hour Contracts:- The Union has three concerns in relation to the Company's proposals for changes in the 48- hour contract. Firstly staff seek that the day shifts should have an earlier start and finish time i.e.10.00 am -10.00 pm. Under the Company's proposal staff depending on public transport and finishing at 11.00 p.m. would encounter great difficulties in getting home until after midnight due to the distance they live away from the job. Secondly, staff have serious concerns about the length of some shifts patterns whereby they would work 8 or 9 twelve- hour shift patterns in succession. Thirdly, staff have concerns about the health and safety aspect of the Company's proposed shift patterns on the grounds that they would find themselves between work /travelling doing in reality a 14- hour day and also due to the nature and location of the DMC staff who have a dependency on public transport expressed serious concerns about having to make their way home from the DMC at 11.00 pm.
7. Upgrading of Auxiliary Postal Sorter Staff.:- Prior to and since the introduction of the RWA the upgrading of Auxiliary Postal Sorter Staff, i.e. working full- time hours has been an integral part of the operation of the Plant. A large number of Auxiliary Postal Sorter Staff have been performing a continuous upgrade for four years or more. With the introduction of the Company's proposals many if not all of these staff would see their upgrades disappear and they would see a serious decline in their incomes. These staff should be treated in accordance with section 11.3 4.1 of the RWA Agreement.
8. Exit Scheme:- Where a surplus of staff is identified then an exit scheme as per Section 12.5, page 50 of the RWA should be made available to staff.
9. Implementation:- The Union has major concerns in relation to the implementation date for any recommendation which the Court may make.. The Union firmly believes that implementation should not apply until October, 2007.
4. 1. Banking of Hours:- This would only apply in respect of the 21 hour contracts and is a requirement for the very busy Christmas period. Other contract hours are not affected. However, the Company is prepared to offer overtime to workers on 37.5-hour contracts .
2. Compensation:- The Company paid 12.5% up front for ongoing change in 2002. The Company cannot pay further compensation.
3. Reduction of Twilight Attendances:- There has been no input from the Union as to how the number of night shift duty attendances would be reduced to twilight hours contracts. The Company has already tweaked attendances through its proposals on this issue and cannot make further concessions.
4. Duty competition i.e SKS Video Coding:-The operation of the SKS /Video Coding requires special skills and all workers in the DMC have the option of being trained in the procedure. There is a small number of trained staff who operate this crucial equipment.
5. Applying for Contract Level of Choice:- The Union is trying to re-jig contracts. The Company cannot force workers to take a lower level of contract. The Company cannot offer an open duty competition as it might get too many 48-hour/ 37.5-hour contracts.
6. 48 Hour Contracts:- All rosters in the DMC were designed to facilitate union requests.They are fully compliant with the relevant legislation. Transport is available for workers after the 11.00 p.m. finish.
7. Upgrading of Auxiliary Postal Sorter staff:- There is a significant level of full- time vacancies which the Company intends to fill. Workers will not be required to accept lower levels of contract.
8. Exit Scheme:- There are no surplus staff and a significant number of vacancies require to be filled by promotions.
9. Implementation:- The Company requires change to be implemented as soon as possible. The Company is prepared to address workers' concerns in relation to allocation of annual leave etc,.
The dispute before the Court under section 20 (2) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1969, concerns a review of the January 2002 working agreement entitled “Revised Working Arrangements at the Dublin Mails Centre” herein referred to as the RWA Agreement.
The purpose of the Agreement was to transform the Dublin Mails Centre to adapt to the challenges of a changing market. Prior to this time, the Centre was heavily dependent on high levels of overtime working.
The RWA Agreement was introduced to eliminate overtime, comply with the Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997 give consistency around weekends and public holidays and to ensure sufficient staffing coverage within the Centre. The alignment of staff to duty charts militated against operational flexibility and production needs. Therefore, the RWA Agreement introduced new staff rosters with variable weekly hours of 21 hours, 26 hours, 37 ½ hours and 48 hours. It provided for a joint review of the rosters to be conducted on a quarterly basis or as agreed, and would examine forecast traffic of mail, traffic arrival patterns, traffic mix, operating equipment, work systems and agreed performance standards.
Intensive efforts by both sides resulted in a number of draft proposals emerging the latest of which was dated 23rd May 2006. However, all were rejected by the members. In accordance with procedures the issues have been referred to the Court.
The Court finds it difficult to understand how an Agreement entered into in January 2002 to introduce revised working arrangements, designed to meet the Company’s operational needs could continue to be the subject of disagreement between the parties at the end of November, 2006, when it was finalised four years ago and only the issue of rosters was supposed to the subject of a “review” a few months later.
Management informed the Court that in the four years since the Agreement was concluded there has been no agreed review and therefore mail volumes and arrival patterns and staff attendances are significantly and gravely misaligned. This situation had led to serious consequences for mail clearance from the Centre.
The Court accepts that it is very difficult to manage situations where the Centre is under pressure, with peaks in the volume of mail and accepts that this is exactly what the Agreement was intended to address. The difficulties are compounded at these times as the current rosters provide that experienced staff are off duty and the Centre has to rely on inexperienced temporary staff, leading to a failure to clear all mail, thereby giving rise to negative implications for the quality of the service.
The Union outlined to the Court the reasons for the rejection of the proposals. The Court has examined each of these issues and recommends as follows:
Banking of Hours for 21- Hour Contract Staff:-
The Company’s proposals contained a provision that staff who are contracted to work 21 hours per week are expected to “bank” one hour per week and to work these hours during the Christmas period, thereby changing their attendance liability to work 42 hours per week at Christmas.
In an effort to address the concerns of staff, the Company agreed to move from a quarterly review to a monthly review and indicated that banked hours will only be required from those on the 21-hour contracts.
The Court accepts that the Christmas period is a critical operational period for the Company and understands its requirement to maximise the number of experienced staff
working in the Centre at that time. However, it indicated that duty preferences would be given favourable consideration.
The Union outlined for the Court the extent and impact of the change envisaged and sought to retain 21- hour working arrangements during Christmas periods, i.e. no banking of hours.
Having carefully considered the submissions of both sides, the Court recommends that the 23rd May 2006 Draft Proposals should be amended as follows:-
-Current RWA auxiliary contract staff who express a preference in the Duty Competition that they cannot bank hours to the Christmas period will be entitled to have their rostered hours restructured so that they continue to perform a 21-hour attendance pattern each week. This provision will be red-circled (personal to holder) to these named staff only.
-Future entrants will be required to “bank hours” in order to cover a longer working hours pattern during the Christmas period and will not be entitled to opt out of this arrangement, the details of which will be specifically stipulated in the new entrants contracts of employment.
-Those staff on 37.5 hour contracts should be offered additional hours, at the appropriate overtime rate, during the Christmas pressure period.
The Union stated that now that Inward Coding is fully operational without increased staffing levels, staff should be compensated or their rostered hours reduced for the extra work involved.
The Court is satisfied that the changes proposed by the Company fall within the scope of the RWA Agreement and that compensation is not appropriate. Therefore, the Court does not recommend in favour of the Union’s claim for compensation.
Other Issues Raised by the Union:-
The Union raised a number of other issues before the Court:
-Reduction of Twilight Attendances 6.00pm – 1.30am:-
The Union expressed concern regarding the reduction in the number of twilight shift requirements which the Company will require. This will impact particularly on female employees. The Union sought that staff concerns should be taken into account and the Company should modify its proposals accordingly.
The Company indicated that if alterations had to be made to these arrangements it would have implications for all other arrangements.
-Duty Competition – SKS/Video Coding:-
Under the Company’s proposals staff who are SKS/Video Coding trained would be precluded from applying for any duty competitions outside of SKS/Video Coding duties, which may be more suitable to their family/domestic circumstances, thereby losing out to those with less seniority. Secondly, staff who are not trained in SKS/Video Coding are precluded from applying for these duties. The Union sought that staff concerns should be taken into account and the Company should modify its proposals accordingly.
The Company indicated that all staff have an option to be trained, however, as this is a crucial element of production, it is necessary to confine it to those who are trained in its use.
The Union has difficulties with the operation of the duty competitions and seek to have them run in accordance with Section 11.3 of the Agreement.
The Union sought that staff concerns should be taken into account and the Company should modify its proposals accordingly.
The Company submitted that this is an attempt by the Union to renegotiate the RWA Agreement from scratch.
The Union expressed concern regarding the operation of 48 hour contracts, particularly with regard to the times of the shifts, the number of successive shifts required and the length of the working day when travelling to and from work is taken into account.
- The Union sought that staff concerns should be taken into account and the Company should modify its proposals accordingly.
The Company stated that a considerable amount of time had been spent on designing the working patterns and that the arrangements in place were in compliance with the terms of the Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997. The Union confirmed for the Court that it accepted that the arrangements were in compliance with the terms of the Act.
- The Union sought that staff concerns should be taken into account and the Company should modify its proposals accordingly.
-Upgrading of Auxiliary Postal Sorter Staff:-
The Union raised a concern that Auxiliary Postal Sorter Staff who have been upgraded to full time staff for the past four years will now lose that upgrade as a result of the Company’s proposals and therefore they will suffer a serious decline in their incomes.
The Union sought that staff concerns should be taken into account and the Company should modify its proposals accordingly and that these staff should be treated in accordance with Section 126.96.36.199 of the RWA.
The Company responded that there are a significant number of vacancies, which need to be filled, and that no member of staff will be required to take a lower level of contract.
The Union sought the application of the Voluntary Early Retirement and Severance Schemes applicable under Section 12. 5 of the RWA where a surplus of staff is identified.
The Company stated that there would be no surplus staff. Promotional opportunities will be available.
The 2002 RWA Agreement provided for the exit schemes at the initial stages of the Agreement.
The Court is of the view that as these issues were not the subject of discussions at the Labour Relations Commission and were being raised for the first time at the Court hearing it would not be appropriate to issue a recommendation under Section 20 (2). Therefore, the Court is of the view that they should be dealt with through the ongoing review process identified in the RWA Agreement. As this review process has already taken such a long period of time, the Court is of the view that it should be finalised within a period of six weeks of the date of this Recommendation.
The Court has considered all aspects of this case. The Union expressed its concern regarding the implementation date of the Court’s Recommendation and stated that it should not be implemented until the start of the new duty calendar year i.e. October, 2007, as it would greatly upset staff family arrangements, which have already been made.
In stressing the importance of acceptance of the draft proposals, the Company indicated that the quality of the service might be in jeopardy which could impact on jobs in the Dublin Mail Centre. It also stated that it would honour the leave arrangements entered into for the 2006 Christmas period.
Due to the length of time taken to advance this “review” and of Company’s requirement to act promptly to address the quality of the service, the Court recommends that the draft agreement reached between the Company and the CWU on 23rd May, 2006 should be amended to include the above Recommendation in respect of “Banking of Hours for 21 Hour Contract Staff”.
Pending finalisation of the other items within the recommended timeframe outlined above, both sides should accept the amended proposals, with immediate effect in accordance with the process set out in the draft proposals.
The Court so recommends under Section 20 (2) of the Industrial Relations Act 1969, which both parties have agreed to be bound by.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
4th December, 2006______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Tom O'Dea, Court Secretary.