INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 2004
S2(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS (AMENDMENT) ACT, 2001,
AS AMENDED BY THE INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS(MISCELLANEOUS PROVISIONS) ACT, 2004
SPECIALIST AIRPORT SERVICES TRADING AS FERNLEY AIRPORT SERVICES
(REPRESENTED BY IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
INDEPENDENT WORKERS UNION
Chairman: Ms Jenkinson
Employer Member: Mr Grier
Worker Member: Mr O'Neill
1. Union application under The Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act, 2001, as amended by The Industrial Relations (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2004.
2. The issue relates to a claim by the Independent Workers Union (IWU) on behalf of 8 workers. The Union claims that the workers are in a very specific category of worker. The employer describes them as "Security Agents". They exclusively monitor airport baggage, after it has been checked in for flight and before it boards the aircraft. The Union claims that the employer failed to abide by its own grievance procedures and that this is a major point in the formation of the Union's dispute. The Company maintains that it has an agreement with SIPTU, and recognises that trade union as having sole negotiating rights on all matters relating to the grade, group or category of workers at issue. In June, 2005 the Company formalised an agreement with SIPTU as having sole negotiating rights on all matters relating to Fernley employees in Ireland.
The dispute was referred to the Labour Court on the 27th November, 2006 in accordance with Section 2(1) Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act, 2001, as amended by the Industrial Relations (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2004. A Labour Court hearing was held on the 20th February, 2007.The Court dealt only with the preliminary issue at the hearing and the following is the Court's Recommendation:
Prior to the hearing, the employer’s representative raised a preliminary objection to the jurisdiction of the Court on grounds that the conditions specified at section 2(1)(a) of the Act have not been fulfilled. She made an application to the Court to conduct a preliminary hearing pursuant to Section 3.
In accordance with Section 3 of the Act the Court has discretion to hold a preliminary hearing to determine if the requirements of Section 2 have been met or to determine such questions as part of its investigation. The Court decided to hold a preliminary hearing in this case, and informed the parties of its decision.
At the commencement of the hearing the employer’s representative made a submission to the Court in support of its objection to the Court’s jurisdiction to investigate the dispute.
Section 2(1)(a) states that the Court may investigate a trade dispute where the Court is satisfied that -
“It is not the practice of the employer to engage in collective bargaining negotiations in respect of the grade, group or category of workers who are party to the trade dispute and the internal dispute resolution procedures (if any) normally used by the parties concerned have failed to resolve the dispute”
By letter dated 29th August 2006 IWU wrote to the Company, advising it that security staff at Cork Airport, who were members of IWU, wished to pursue grievances, but had met with resistance from local management of the Company. In the first paragraph of this letter the author stated: -
- “I understand, that their membership of the IWU, entails a protocol problem for the company, as your organisation prefers to deal with SIPTU.”
By letter dated 13th September 2006, the Company responded stating that it had a formal agreement with SIPTU, which recognises SIPTU“as having sole negotiation rights on all matters concerning the categories of employees covered by the Agreement”.The Companystated that such rights have been established since June 2005. This position was confirmed by SIPTU in a letter dated 17th February 2007.
The Union informed the Court that employees were not made aware of the position with regard to SIPTU; that they were of the view that they had a right to join whichever Union they choose to represent them and that they wished to invoke the Company’s grievance procedures and have IWU represent them in their negotiations with the Company. The Union stated to the Court that many of its members had joined the Company post the formal agreement with SIPTU in June 2005 and that their contract of employment made no reference to Union membership being restricted for negotiating purposes to SIPTU.
The Company accepted that its contracts of employment did not refer to Union membership; however, it stated that its position was made clear to IWU in the letter dated 13th September 2006.
The Company told the Court it has engaged in collective bargaining negotiations with a recognised Trade Union. It stated that a formal Company/Union agreement was signed with SIPTU on 21st June 2005; which contains procedures on grievance and disciplinary issues. This agreement continues in force and covers all hourly paid workers. Details of correspondence on collective bargaining issues with SIPTU were furnished to the Court for inspection.
Having considered the submissions of the parties the Court is satisfied that it is the practice of the employer to engage in collective bargaining negotiations in respect of the workers who are party to the trade dispute.
The Court finds that (the first limb of) section 2(1)(a) has not been fulfilled in this case; therefore, the dispute is not properly before the Court for investigation and recommendation. Consequently, the Court declines to investigate the substantive issues in dispute.
The Court so recommends.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Jackie Byrne, Court Secretary.