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 Murphy
Worker Member: Mr O'Neill
1. A) Smoking Facilities, B) Pension.
2. The Company is part of the Glen Dimplex Group. It manufactures heating appliances and employs approximately 400 workers at its plant in Dunleer, Co Louth.
Claim (A).Prior to introduction of the smoking ban the Company restricted access to smoking to a number of designated locations across the plant and workers had the opportunity to avail of a smoke break during the working day. On the introduction of the ban on smoking in 2004, the Company built a facility outside the plant and confined smoking breaks to the morning and lunch breaks. The Union is seeking an additional ten- minute smoking break.
Claim (B). T he Company operates a Defined Contribution Pension Scheme. The contributions are capped at 5% rate of contribution by the Company and 5% by the employee. The Union is seeking an increase in the contribution rate to 8%.
Management rejected the claims. 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 15th December, 2005, in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. A Court hearing was held on the 14th July, 2006, the earliest date suitable to the parties.
3. 1.Claim (A) Smoking Break. Before the smoking ban workers had the opportunity to avail of a smoke during the working day because access to the designated smoking areas was unrestricted. This facility was not abused and there was no effect on production. The present policy has posed problems because of the lack of an extra smoking break and has led to workers receiving disciplinary warnings.
2. The Union has proposed the introduction of an additional smoking break on a trial basis to determine if the new arrangement would be subject to abuse or if it would lead to a negative effect on production. If that turned out to be the case the Company could withdraw the facility. The Company declined to accede to the Union's request.
3. Workers in another Company, Chilton Electric, which is also part of the Dimplex Group, avail of an official five-minute smoking break both morning and afternoon. The Union is seeking an official smoking break consistent with that which applies in Chilton Electric.
4.Claim (B) Pension Contribution.The 5% cap is too low. A recent survey shows that 46% of schemes were funded by employers to an extent greater than 5%. Workers who are on Defined Contribution Schemes do not enjoy pension schemes of equal value when retirement is reached. A recent survey in June, 2006, shows that Companies with Defined Benefit Schemes contribute up to 16.8%, up from 8.8% in 2000.
5. The Claimants are low-paid workers whose basic plus bonus earnings would only equate to approximately 80% of the average industrial earnings in the Basic Metals Sector. Any opportunities these workers have to provide an income for themselves and their families into retirement is to try to boost their potential pension from Bitech Engineering. A low wage with a Defined Contribution Pension capped at 5% is extremely unlikely to do this.
The Union is seeking that the Company increase its Pension Contribution to a maximum of 8% to be matched by the workers.
4. 1.Claim (A) Smoking Break.The Company has a significant problem with workers breaching the smoking ban such that a number of Final Written Warnings have been issued since its inception. Workers already have two breaks during their shift where they can smoke in designated areas should they choose to do so.
2. Additional breaks would only worsen the blatant abuse of the smoking ban and would also result in a loss of production. Such a loss is not acceptable when the Company is striving to reduce costs and maintain its manufacturing presence.
3.Claim (B) Pension Contribution.The Company's level of contribution at 5% is very much within the industry norm. The Company also provides access to a PRSA for any contract workers or workers with under twelve months service. The Company does not see merit in the Union's argument for an increase to 8%.
4. The Company operates within a highly competitive cost market. Concession of the claim would result in an increase in costs which the Company cannot absorb at this time.
Having considered the submissions of the parties the Court recommends as follows in relation to the Union's claims:-
The Court is not aware of any practice in industry generally to provide additional smoking breaks during the working day in consequence of the ban on smoking in the workplace. Having regard to this and other relevant considerations relating to the desirability of discouraging smoking for reasons of health and safety, the Court does not recommend concession of this claim.
The Court is not satisfied that a case has been made out for an increase in the rate of contribution to the pension scheme. However, the Court does recommend that in the particular circumstances of this case, having regard to the relatively modest costs involved up to 5% of the bonus earnings of staff should be included in the respective employer and employee contributions to the pension scheme.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
24th July, 2006
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Tom O'Dea, Court Secretary.