INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 2004
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Ms Jenkinson
Employer Member: Mr Doherty
Worker Member: Mr O'Neill
1. (a) Reserved Hours. (b) Upgrade in Cheese String Area.
2. The Company is involved in the production of dairy products. The Charleville branch employs approximately 150 employees. The issues in dispute relate to: (a) Reserved Hours, which are part of an overall Agreement on Annualised Hours in the powder factory. They total 185 hours a year and were agreed that if ever they had to be worked it would be at a minimum. The Union claims that this has been the case since the original agreement in 1999. The Union contends that the Company wants the workers to work these hours at the Company's discretion. (b) Retrospection payment due to workers in the cheese string area as a result of the IPC awarding them an upgrade from Grade 5 plus to Grade 6. The Union claims that the Company are refusing to pay the retrospection unless the workers agree to changes in work practices.
- The dispute could not be resolved at local level and was 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 27th October, 2005 in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. A Labour Court hearing took place on the 24th May, 2006.
The Annualised Hours Agreement was reached in November, 1999, it was made up of a number of elements one of which was called Reserved Hours. These hours were a huge selling point by the Company in influencing the members into accepting the overall agreement. The Company at all times stressed that these should not be worked.
2.The Union position is that reserved hours would only be used as a last resort to cover short term sickness, and only after all seasonal relief operatives are asked. The cover requirement is limited to the first shift of absence.
1.Retrospection for Upgrade in Cheese String Area
The Company paid the increase to Grade 6 but refused to pay the retrospection due unless workers agreed to changes outlined in the Memorandum of 3rd June, 2005 being implemented.
2. The Union argues that the job description outlined in the Memorandum is totally outside the job description agreed, as the job description involves all the tasks and responsibilities that is required of workers to carry our their work and tomonitor the product. The memo is solely to put in place a system that monitors the person and not the product.
3. The Union accepts that any Company has a right to seek change to existing agreements and methods of work, introduction of new systems of work etc. but that changes are made through agreed procedures which are clearly outlined in Sustaining Progress and the Company/Union Agreement.
4. The workers were awarded a grade increase on the basis of the way they were carrying out their tasks and responsibilities as agreed by the IPC and are entitled to their pay back on this basis.
The main thrust of the Annual Hours system is that short term absences would be covered by employees and they are paid for these hours at a premium rate to provide this cover.
2. When the AnnualHours Agreement was put in place, the Labour Court recommended that employees receive an ongoing payment of €25 per week for endorsing the changes in the Company proposals. Further negotiations took place before the recommendation was accepted and this resulted in the ongoing payment being increased to €50 per week.
3. Workers originally agreed to cover two weeks per employee absent, following local meetings it was reduced to one week and at subsequent talks the Company agreed to a potential two days where the Company were advised by the individual's doctor that the absence was going to be in excess of a week.
1.Retrospection for upgrade in Cheese String Area
The Company has complied with the wage increases contained in the Sustaining Progress agreement. It has also gone outside the terms of the agreement in relation to cost increasing claims (upgrading) but it did this in an effort to maintain production and satisfy its customer's requirements.
2. Sustaining Progress Agreement Clause 1.3 refers to cooperation with normal ongoing change and the need for continued adaptation and flexibility to maintain competitiveness and to increase productivity and employment. It also refers to a need to develop a first class work environment, which facilitates employee advancement, improves job security, promotes equal opportunities, increases training, productivity, flexibility and good working conditions which benefits everyone involved. Having complied with Sustaining Progress the Company has difficulty getting workers to comply with Clause 1.3.
Two issues were referred to the Court.
(a) Requirement for Employees on Annual Hours Contracts to Work Reserved Hours.
Reserve Hours, which are part of the overall Agreement on Annualised Hours in the Powder Factory total a maximum of 185 hours paid at a premium rate of 1.75.
The Union disagreed with the Company’s attempts to use these hours to cover absenteeism and held that the hours should not have to be worked, or if they ever had to be worked it should be at a minimum and that had been the case since the original agreement in 1999.
Up until 2003/2004 the necessity to work reserved hours had been at a minimal, since then due to an increase in levels of absenteeism Operators are now required to work more of their reserved hours. However, the Court notes that even with the increase in liability to work the hours, the requirement is still very low (circa 100 hours per annum in total Company wide).
At the Labour Relations Commission, in an effort to address the dispute between the parties, the Industrial Relations Officer put forward a proposal to both sides - dated 23rd May 2005. The Union put the proposal to ballot; the members rejected it.
The proposal stated:
- “Reserved Hours: it is agreed between the parties that where the medical certificate received at the beginning of the absence states that the employee will be out of work longer than one week then the employees will cover the absence as reserved hours for two days. In all other absences they will work reserve hours as per the existing agreement.”
Having considered the matter, the Court is of the view that the concept of Reserved Hours is an integral part of the Annual Hours Contract, designed to deal with the operational needs of the Company and furthermore, short term absences should be covered by Reserve Hours. The Court considers that the proposal put forward by the Labour Relations Commission is reasonable in the circumstances and recommends that it should be re-instated and accepted by the members.
The Court is further of the view that the growing levels of absenteeism as outlined by the Company should be addressed.
(b) Claim for Retrospective Pay by Wet Area Operators in Cheesestrings arising from an upgrade from Grade 5+ to Grade 6.
The Court is satisfied that the exercise carried out by IPC which recommended the upgrading of Wet Area Operators in Cheesestrings was based on the jointly agreed Job Profiles for the Operatives. The Job Profiles specified the need to ensure the efficient and cost effective operation of the Cheesestrings Wet Area processes and detailed the need to ensure optimum productivity/efficiency when describing the range and nature of duties attached.
Therefore, the Court accepts that the Company can expect the Operators to work in delivering an improved performance based on the agreed Job Profiles in return for the upgrade and retrospection. In addition, the Court accepts the Company’s need to identify the training/retraining needs of the Operators.
Consequently, the Court recommends that the Union should fully co-operate with management on achieving these aims and in return the retrospection due should be paid on the following basis:
-25% of retrospection should be paid on acceptance of the principle of the Job Profiles being achieved,
-50% after 6 months of implementation of the Company’s plans to achieve the productivity/efficiencies envisaged,
-25% after a further 6 months of successful implementation.
The Court so recommends.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Jackie Byrne, Court Secretary.