INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 2004
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
STAFFORD SHIPPING LIMITED
(REPRESENTED BY IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
(REPRESENTED BY SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION)
Chairman: Mr Duffy
Employer Member: Mr Murphy
Worker Member: Mr Nash
1. Three redundancies.
2. The Company is located in New Ross Port and provides stevedoring/shipping services at the Port. Its business (tonnages) has been in ongoing decline over a number of years and it has proposed to the Union that three workers be made redundant. The three workers are, a general operative, a crane operator and a mechanical fitter on maintenance work. The Company claims that the general operative is employed for only 25% of his time, the crane operator for only about 33% and that there is insufficient work to justify the employment of a maintenance person. The Company already uses contractors for crane services and proposes to extend its use of them to meet all its crane and maintenance requirements. The Company has offered to negotiate a redundancy package (based on 6 weeks' pay per year of service as a precedent at the Company). The Union contends that the Company can make sufficient work available (given the use of contractors etc) and is refusing to accept the redundancies. The workers have very long service.
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. During Conciliation talks the Union raised the possibility of the men working at both New Ross and Waterford Ports where the Company also operates. The Union stated that the men were obliged under agreement to work at Waterford Port when required by the Company.As agreement was not reached the dispute was referred to the Labour Court on the 9th August, 2006 in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. A Labour Court hearing took place on the 14th November, 2006.
3.1 The Company argues that the positions of two of the employees have been unsustainable for many years. The Company has tried unsuccessfully for 2 years to engage in meaningful discussions with the Union in the hope of finding a solution to the issues concerned. The position of the third employee became unsustainable in February, 2006 when one of the Company's biggest customers, TIMAC, announced that it was exiting the bulk fertiliser market in Ireland which would result in a very significant drop in the projected tonnages for the Company through the Port in 2006. The withdrawel of this customer resulted in Management deciding against any investment programme in cranes at the Port.
2. Total sold tonnage through the Port had reduced from 250 thousand tons in 2000 to a mere 65 thousand tons in 2005. This represents a 74% reduction in total tonnage sold. The situation at the end of the third quarter of 2006 is that only 12,500 tons has been imported by the customer through the port of New Ross. The decision by TIMAC to discontinue its operation has impacted significantly on the crane driver's position
3. The Company, for its part, has offered a redundancy package which is reasonable in all circumstances and despite considerable provocation has not taken any unilateral action re redundancies or transfers. The Company is prepared to reach a reasonable redundancy settlement with the employees involved but the Union has evaded attempts at discussions.
4.1 The Company is part of the Stafford Group Limited which is one of the largest privately-owned firms in the Country with interests in oil/solid fuel importation and distribution, shipping, storage, hotels and property.
2. The Company's balance sheet shows a very healthy balanceand it has significant operations at ports in New Ross, Foynes and Waterford and is a very profitable Company.
3. Management dismissed the role and functions of the three full time employees stating that they were only utilised 25% and 33% respectively yet gave the reasons why they were not using them in the Port of Waterford as per the flexibility agreement.
4. The Company has applied for the redevelopment of the Rosbercon site on which the Company will spend over €260 million over the next number of years. At no stage have the employees been consulted or informed of any of the proposed developments except through local papers. Yet agreement exists where following any input in relation to the working conditions of workers that management must consult with the Union at the earliest possible opportunity and take full account of its views prior to implementation.
5. Management has decided to ignore their obligations to their employees and just decided to make them redundant. Management has refused to discuss the utilisation of the workers concerned. At all stages the workers have stated that they would operate between the Ports of New Ross and Waterford.
6. The Union contends that this is not about redundancies but about the casualisation of the dock labour force in the Company and the displacement of the workers concerned. The work that is currently being carried out by the workers will still need to be done and therefore management will still require a workforce to do that work. The workers are not interested in redundancies, but are only interested in their jobs.
The Court recommends that the parties should make a final and concerted attempt to identify tangible and viable positions into which the workers concerned can be redeployed. If such positions cannot be identified, or if the workers concerned are unwilling to accept available redeployment opportunities, the Union should accept that a redundancy situation exists. They should then finalise negotiations on a redundancy package.
These negotiations should commence within 4 weeks from the date of this Recommendation. They should conclude not later than 15th January, 2007. At that stage outstanding issues should be referred back to the Court for final and definitive adjudication.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Jackie Byrne, Court Secretary.