INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 2004
SECTION 13(9), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1969
IRISH BLOOD TRANSFUSION SERVICE
(REPRESENTED BY IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Ms Jenkinson
Employer Member: Mr Murphy
Worker Member: Mr O'Neill
1. Appeal against Rights Commissioner's Recommendation R-039190 / 039191-Ir-05-DI.
2. In June, 2003, an agreement was reached for the payment of a lump sum in compensation for loss of overtime earnings due to the introduction of the "Progressa System". The payment was calculated at twice the loss of earnings based on a 12-month notice period i.e. 2-years' loss of overtime earnings. The Union claims that a new Director of Human Resources revisited the agreement shortly afterwards and decided that three workers (including the two in the current dispute) were overpaid. The Union's case is that people had a choice between an overtime payment or time off in lieu for working the Progressa System. It disputes the Service's claim that the Union accepted that there was an overpayment to the two workers and, even if there was an overpayment, it is unhappy with the length of time taken by the Service and the manner in which it recouped the money. It also claims that there was confusion with another agreement for loss of earnings in the D'Olier Street branch.
In October, 2005, the Service wrote to the two workers and informed them that the overpayment would be deducted over a 3-year period. The deduction commenced on the 10th of November, 2005.
The case was referred to a Rights Commissioner and his Recommendation is as follows:-
"Both in their oral and written submissions the parties to this dispute differed significantly in the versions they submitted of the background and chronology to this dispute from May 2003 to December 2005. The passage of time from the initial agreement compensation to date has, I believe, contributed to this lack of clarity.
The respondent has a right to recover over payments made to employee's wages. I find that there was an agreement between the parties that the claimant's had been overpaid and that the amount overpaid was to be recouped from the claimant's wages. The Union's letter of 6th December 2004 confirms that it is agreed that the claimants had been overpaid by €4,313.58and €3,187.22 respectively. I therefore find against the claimant's case that no further deductions should be made from their wages in respect of this matter or that they should be repaid any monies deducted to date".
The Union appealed the Recommendation to the Labour Court on the 26th of October, 2006, in accordance with Section 13(9) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1969. A Labour Court hearing took place on the 1st of February, 2007.
3. 1. In 2003, a new Director of Human Resources decided to revisit the agreement and in June, 2004, a unilateral decision was made to recoup money from the two workers. Eighteen months had elapsed before this decision was taken.
2. The Union rejects Management's claim that extensive discussions took place at local level or that the Union agreed to the money being recouped.
3. The two workers have been treated very badly by the Service. The Union was willing to have the matter referred to a third party.
4. 1. The Service reached agreement with the Union after protracted negotiations on corrected figures which led to overpayments for the two workers. The Union accepted the corrected figures by way of a letter in December, 2004.
2. The Service has acted in good faith at all times but has been frustrated in attempts to engage with the Union. The Union has failed to honour the agreement.
The case before the Court concerns the Union's claim regarding unauthorised salary deductions made against two employees. In May, 2003, an agreement was reached between the parties when the organisation introduced the Progressa System. The settlement reached included an agreement to pay compensation for the loss of overtime earnings, which ensued. The Service submitted that an error was made and that the two claimants were overpaid in their lump sum payment.
It is obvious to the Court that the core of this dispute relates to the interpretation of the agreement reached in May, 2003. The Union disputes the exclusion of hours taken as "time off in lieu" from the calculation of hours for the purposes of deciding the lump sum.
While the Court has not been provided with written details of the agreement reached, both parties generally agree that the settlement reached was along the following lines:
Compensation at twice the annual loss of overtime earnings, based on a 12-month reference period.
The Court is satisfied that "time off in lieu hours" should be excluded and that only loss of actual earnings paid out during the reference period should be included in the calculation.
Accordingly, based on this understanding, the Court recommends that the Service's offer of an independent auditor to identify lump sum compensation payments for each of the claimants should be accepted by the Union. In the event that the results of the auditor's exercise indicates that there are outstanding amounts due, then the Court recommends that the parties should meet locally to discuss a method of repaying the outstanding amounts due.
The Rights Commissioner's recommendation is varied accordingly.
The Court so decides.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
21st February, 2007______________________
Enquiries concerning this Decision should be addressed to Ciaran O'Neill, Court Secretary.