INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 2004
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
SMURFIT KAPPA NEWS PRESS LIMITED
(REPRESENTED BY IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Mr McGee
Employer Member: Mr Doherty
Worker Member: Mr Nash
1. Clauses 6, 9, 13, 17 And 18 of the Company/Union Agreement.
2. The Company was established in 2000/01 and is involved in newspaper printing. It employs approximately 120 workers in its plant at Kells, Co. Meath. Part of the Company / Union agreement drawn up in 2001 was that a review could take place (though not before 6th of December, 2005). This review has taken place and there are still four items where the parties failed to reach agreement:- (1) Clause 6 - Grievance Procedure, (2) Clause 9 - ill health, injury / sick pay policy, (3) Clause 13 - hours of work and (4) Clause 18 - payment of salary. The parties agreed at the hearing that Clause 17 - crewing levels was no longer before the Court. Briefly the four items are as follows:-
Clause 6:Grievance Procedure. The dispute refers to stage 6 of procedures which states that all recommendations of the Labour Court will be binding on all parties. The Company wishes to maintain this part of the agreement whereas the Union is against it.
Clause 9:Ill health, injury / sick pay. The Union disputes the Company's interpretation which reads"Payment will normally cease after 6 months".
Clause 13:Hours of work. The Company is seeking flexibility from all staff, including re-arranging hours of work at short notice. The Union is seeking a Joint Committee to assess rosters in production and the notice period in the event of a change in rosters.
Clause 18:Pay and differential. The Union believes that the current salary structure falls short of the Industry norm. It claims that at present there is a differential of 8.6% between day and night work, and is seeking a differential of 33.3%.
The dispute was the subject of a number of conciliation conferences at the Labour Relations Commission. As the parties did not reach agreement the dispute was referred to the Labour Court on the 28th of July, 2006, in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. A labour Court hearing took place on the 29th of November, 2006. A Labour Court hearing took place on the 29th of November, 2006.
3. 1.Grievance Procedure:The present agreement, i.e.that recommendations by the Labour Court will be binding on all parties is, in effect, a "no strike" clause which is unacceptable to the members. It is out of line with the print industry as none of the Company's competitors have binding decisions in their procedures. The Union is seeking the removal of stage 6 and replacing it with the following:-
"Notice of intention to strike or to engage in any form(s) of industrial action may only be given after Stage 5 has been fully exercised and then only in accordance with provisions of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990 including a decision by Secret Ballot Vote approved under Rules of the Union and not less than two clear weeks (14 days) written notice of the intention to engage in such industrial action.
During the period of notice of industrial action including Strike Notice all clauses in this procedure will be observed by Management, Staff and the Union."
2.Ill Health, injury / sick pay:The Company has confirmed that part 6 of the agreement which reads"Payment will normally cease after 6 months"actually means"will cease after 6 months". The Company claims high absenteeism as a reason but has provided no details to the Union. The rules have never identified what would happen after 6 months.
3.Hours of work:A local Joint Committee in the Maintenance Section has successfully agreed a new roster. A similar agreement within the Production area is also needed and the Committee could look at management's unilateral decision to change hours of work at short notice.
4.Payment of salary:The salary structure within the Company falls short of the Industry norm (the Union supplied details of salaries in comparator companies). The Company has not replaced 9 members of staff in the Production Section which equates to a savings of €506,529 to date.
4. 1.Grievance Procedure:This is a fundamental issue for the Company to ensure it meets its contractual obligations. The Union was fully aware of this when it entered into an exclusive agreement with the Company.
2.Ill health, injury / sick pay:The Company operates a very supportive sick pay scheme paying a minimum 6 months' full pay to each employee. The Company has high levels of absenteeism and it believes that the level of benefits from the sick pay scheme has fuelled the absenteeism levels. The claim, if conceded, would be cost increasing.
3.Hours of work:The Union is seeking the introduction of permanent day contracts or permanent 2-shift-cycle contracts. Due to the nature of the business flexibility and co-operation in re-arranging shift patterns or working hours at short notice are a condition of employment.
4.Payment of salary:The Unions claim is cost increasing and would substantially impact on the Company's competitiveness. It is estimated that the cost would be €1.4 million apart from paying Towards 2016.
Having considered the issues, the Court recommends as follows:
Clause 6: Grievance procedure.
Given the nature of the business in which the Company is engaged and the history of this clause, the Court does not recommend that the clause should be altered at this time. This having been said, the Court would, however, recommend that the Company, being fully aware of the obligations imposed on it by such a unique arrangement, must ensure that grievances are dealt with in a timely and effective manner, consistent with agreements which both parties would operate elsewhere.
Clause 9: Ill health / injury / sick pay
The Court recommends that the parties should carry out an immediate joint review of the level and reason for the usage of the sick pay scheme, following which they should jointly assess the need, if any, for a change in the existing scheme and its rules.
Clause 13: Hours of work.
The Court recommends that the Joint Committee be put speedily in place and should deal with the matters raised by the Union under this heading. It should complete its work no later than the 30th of April, 2007.
Clause 18: Pay and differential.
(a) Pay: The Court does not recommend concession of this claim.
(b) Night differential: Given that an annualised pay structure exists in the Company, the Court does not feel that it should make a recommendation on the matter at this time. The Court recommends that the parties should re-engage on this matter in the above context in an attempt to resolve it. The parties should revert to the Court for a substantive recommendation if this process does not succeed.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
18th January, 2007______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Ciaran O'Neill, Court Secretary.