INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 2004
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
NUTRICIA IRELAND LTD
(REPRESENTED BY IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Mr Duffy
Employer Member: Mr Murphy
Worker Member: Mr O'Neill
1. Sustaining Progress (cost offsetting measures).
2. The Company produces and packs Infant Milk Formula in two sites based in Macroom and Wexford. The plant in Macroom currently employs 37 direct and 31 indirect full time employees. The dispute concerns the Macroom plant.
In December 2004 the Company announced that it would be unable to pay the pay increases set down in the national wage agreement and that it would seek changes in work practices in all sites. The Unions would not enter into substantive discussions with the Company and the Company referred the issues to the conciliation service of the Labour Relations Commission. The Unions were unwilling to discuss the changes without prior payment of Sustaining Progress and the conference was adjourned. The Company sought the appointment of an independent assessor in accordance with the provision of Clause 1.10 (iii) of the Sustaining Progress Agreement.
The independent assessor found that the Company was entitled to cost offsetting measures under Clause 1.10(iii) in order to protect the employment situation in Ireland. He further recommended that both parties sit down at conciliation and negotiate on what these might be.
The issues were 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 August, 2005, in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. A Labour Court hearing took place on the 14th December, 2005.
3. 1.Under the terms of Sustaining Progress the onus is on the employer to convince the Union of the case for cost offsetting measures. The Company has not convinced the Union on this issue.
2. Investment in the Macroom plant is going ahead and it is being modified to increase production and safety standards.
3. The Union's members have not received any pay increases in over two years but they are willing to discuss cost offsetting measures when Part 2 of Sustaining Progress and retrospection is paid.
4. 1.The Company has, up until this time, always honoured the terms of the Sustaining Progress and all other National Wage Agreements.
2.The cost offsetting measures sought by the Company are reasonable and in line with modern practice and efficiencies.
3. The Company is prepared to pay Part 2 of Sustaining Progress for the changes sought.
The Court has given careful consideration to the submissions of the parties and has also had full regard to the report of the Assessor appointed by the LRC.
The net question for determination by the Court is whether it is not possible for the Company to pay the terms of Sustaining Progress and that cost offsetting measures are necessary for it to do so. In that regard it is noted that the Agreement expressly provides that the onus is on the Employer to convince the Court of its case.
It is clear from the information before the Court that the Company is trading profitably in Ireland. In these circumstances, and notwithstanding the conclusions reached by the Assessor, the Court cannot accept that the Company is entitled to rely on Clause 1.10 (iii) of the Agreement in seeking the changes at issue as a condition precedent to the payment of the increases due.
The Court notes that the Union is prepared to negotiate on the Company's change agenda once the disputed payments due under Sustaining Progress are implemented. The Court recommends that on payment in full of the increases due the parties should commence negotiations on the Company's proposals. These negotiations should be conducted within an agreed timeframe. If agreement is not reached the matter should be processed procedurally and if necessary referred back to the Court.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
10th January, 2006______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Madelon Geoghegan, Court Secretary.