INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 2004
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
- AND -
NATIONAL BUS AND RAIL UNION
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Ms Jenkinson
Employer Member: Mr Grier
Worker Member: Mr Nash
1. New safety standards, new technology and new levels of professionalism should be reflected in a salary increase and a reduction in working hours.
2. The dispute concerns the Unions' claim on behalf of locomotive drivers for changes in their working arrangements and remuneration on the basis of dramatic upgrading of the railway operations and the subsequent effect these changes have on the requirements of locomotive drivers in the performance of their duties. The Unions are claiming a reduction in working hours and a pay increase of 5%. The Company rejected the claim. 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 28th October, 2005 in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. A Court hearing was held on the 12th January, 2006. At the hearing the issues of regrading and access of locomotive drivers to a Superannuation Scheme were raised by the Unions as part of their claim for consideration by the Court but as these issues had not been referred from conciliation and the employer objected to their inclusion, the Court was unable to deal with them.
3. 1. The Company has evolved hugely since the "New Deal" Agreement of 2000. It has now purchased 150 new state of the art, high speed intercity coaches which will consist of a driving cab on either end and will effectively replace all Loco hauled coaches within the Company. The locomotive drivers must be proficient in all types of traction units in service. They have recently been issued with nine different manuals relating to the units now in service. As part of the continuing change in the rolling stock and the introduction of new train car plants in Portlaoise and Drogheda the locomotive grade, in the five years since the introduction of the "New Deal" Agreement in 2000, has moved to a new level in the discipline and professionalism required of the locomotive driver.
2. The introduction of a number of new safety standards, without consultation with the Unions, is significantly impacting on the drivers' careers. An example of such a safety standard is Standard 23 which the Company introduced, is known to the locomotive drivers as a point system of which a driver would have a number of points allocated against him, applicable to various incidents which occur over his driving career. A driver after reaching 25 points could find his driving career in serious jeopardy.
3. The introduction of NVQ qualifications for locomotive drivers, for which drivers receive a certificate, is a further qualification for the locomotive grade. The Company has recently introduced a change in the periodicity of medical examinations which allows for more regular and indeed random medical examination. Recently the introduction of a number of drivers being trained as Mentor drivers, emanating in the new training programme for locomotive drivers, will result in a trainee driver being assigned to each Mentor driver who will take full responsibility for the trainee concerned and in the case where mistakes may be made by the trainee, the responsibility and ownership of it, according to the Company, lies with the driver concerned. The proposed introduction of written exams in respect of yearly examinations is culminating in a requirement for locomotive drivers to achieve certain qualifications and a standard which was never envisaged in the context of discussions prior to 2000. All of these plus the introduction of a rapidly changing signalling system, and in the case of a further safety Standard 30 on Drugs and Alcohol, bring about huge and significant change for locomotive drivers.
4. Since the introduction of Mark 4 trains, due into the system in March, 2006 the locomotive drivers have expressed their very strong view that significant changes such as the introduction of the Mark 4 trains and the impact of both the safety Standards, the introduction of changes in periodic medical examinations, NVQ certification and mentoring system have raised the bar significantly in the case of the locomotive drivers since the "New Deal" Agreement of 2000. Whilst the drivers have cooperated with these changes they are very aggrieved at the Company's negative response to their claim.
4. 1. The"New Deal" Agreement of 2000 provided for major changes and investment in the railways system going forward and the introduction of a modern fleet of trains. The pay and conditions of locomotive drivers have been significantly improved in return for full co-operation with these changes. The cost of concession of the Unions' claim would be circa €1.25million per annum and would be an unsustainable cost for the Company.
2. The locomotive drivers deal, being the first concluded became a reference point for subsequent agreements with other grades. It is reasonable to assume that should such a claim for general increase in pay for locomotive drivers be awarded this would result in wide ranging repercussive claims. The claim is cost increasing and is precluded under the provisions of the Sustaining Progress Agreement.
3. In relation to the introduction of safety Standard 23 the Company acknowledge that the manner in which it was introduced was unsatisfactory. However, a sub-committee of the locomotive drivers National Committee had been established and facilitated to go through the Standard in detail and come up with counter proposals to any of the particular details of the Standard which the sub-committee considered required revision. Standard 30 deals with the issue of drugs and alcohol in the workplace and there has been detailed and on going consultation on this Standard. The new safety Standards were required to meet legislative changes and the heightened emphasis generally on safety. The detail of the Standards is something which can be resolved through local negotiations. Neither safety Standard 23 nor any other Standard can form the basis for a pay claim.
4. In relation to rostered hours, an agreement provided for the establishment of a standard 48 hour composite pay contract for all drivers with a phased reduction in rostered hours to a standard maximum of 43.5 rostered hours per week for diesel traction drivers and 44.5 rostered hours per week for new DART recruits. The Unions claim that the 48 hour composite pay rate be increased by 5% and at the same time the rostered hours be reduced would effectively reduce available rostered hours by approximately 11%. Apart from generating a significantly larger pay increase than the 5% claimed, such a reduction in working hours would give rise to the need to employ a greater number of drivers thus generating additional costs over and above the cost of a 5% increase on rate.
The issues referred to the Court by the Unions concerned a claim for an increase in pay and a reduction in working hours in return for new levels of professionalism required to comply with new safety standards and new technology.
The Company explained that the safety standards were introduced in order to comply with statutory requirements. It also stated that the requirement to cooperate with the introduction and upgrading on new technology was included in the "New Deal" Agreement of 2000.
The Unions informed the Court of their willingness to embrace safety and health issues; however, they referred to the fact that new safety standards (Standard 23 and Standard 30) have been introduced without sufficient consultation or debate. They explained that there was a perception among the drivers that the new safety standards would have a detrimental impact, in the longer term, on their job security and referred to the anxieties held by the drivers. The Company, on the other hand, explained that independent consultants were currently overseeing the process to consider any potential longer-term impact on the locomotive drivers working environment. The results of this exercise will be shared with the Unions.
Having considered all aspects of the dispute, the Court does not see merit in recommending in favour of the Unions' claims. The Court considers these claims to be cost increasing and consequently debarred under the terms of Sustaining Progress. It also accepts that the introduction of the new technology referred to, was encompassed as part of the "New Deal" Agreement. Consequently, the Court rejects the claims.
However, in order to address the Unions' concerns regarding the impact of the new safety standards, the Court recommends that discussions should commence with immediate effect on establishing agreed policies and implementation/operation procedures, on both Standard 23 and Standard 30 - the Company indicated to the Court that part of this process had already commenced. These discussions should include trade union representatives and if necessary professional experts to address the Unions' claims. The Court recommends that these matters should be completed within a period of three months.
The Court also recommends that when the results of the Independent Consultants report become available, they should also be the subject of discussion between the parties.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
19th January, 2006______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Tom O'Dea, Court Secretary.