INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 2004
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
(REPRESENTED BY IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
Chairman: Mr McGee
Employer Member: Mr Grier
Worker Member: Mr Nash
1. Pay claim.
2. Argos Limited is a home and general merchandise retailer and has traded in the Republic of Ireland since November 1996. The Company employs 1,200 staff with employees enjoying competitive wage rates, bonus, holidays and sick pay scheme. The Company has a collective agreement with Mandate Trade Union, who represent approximately 35% of staff.
Up to the year 2000 pay rates at the Company were adjusted by increases allowed for under National Wage Agreements. In December 2000 the Company and the Union reached an agreement on pay. Part of this agreement was that future increases would be subject to annual negotiations and not National Wage Agreements with effect from December 2000. It was agreed that annual negotiations would take place in January each year commencing in January 2002.
In January 2006 a meeting took place between the Company and the Union in which the Union put forward their claim. The Union also informed the Company that the Mandate Trade Union had decided not to take part in talks on a new national wage agreement and the reasons why. A further meeting took place in July 2006 in which the Company indicated that it was keen to pay the National Agreement, in line with comparable employments in the retail sector. The Union rejected this offer.
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 23rd January, 2007, in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. A Labour Court hearing took place on the 19th April, 2007.
3. 1.In 2006 the Company would not negotiate on pay rates or terms and conditions despite the fact that that was the way we had been doing business since the Agreement reached in December 2000.
2. On a no prejudice basis the Union agreed to the Company's request to pay the terms of Towards 2016 to our members as they had not received an increase on the due date of February 2006.
4. 1.The pay claim put forward by the Union is cost increasing and therefore precluded under the terms of Towards 2016.
2. The Company has paid above National Wage Agreements, after Partnership 2000 ran its course, in order to bring its rates up to comparable employments in the retail sector.
3.The Company now believes its rates of pay are currently competitive within the retail sector and are strongly of the view that paying Towards 2016 will maintain this position.
The Court has fully considered the submissions made by the parties in this case. There is no doubt in the Court's mind that, between 2000 and 2005, a series of arrangements were entered into between the Company and the Trade Union to pay increases differing from and in excess of the National Agreements then applying, with the agenda of bringing the rates in Argos into line with retail rates generally.
Given the nature of the agreements entered into, the Company, while entitled to adopt a position that its rates had now come into line, caused confusion and unnecessary friction in the manner by which it chose to withdraw in 2006 from the previous arrangements and revert to the National pay terms, currently those of "Towards 2016".
The Court is of the view that the pay increases provided for in "Towards 2016" are the appropriate ones to apply in this case and so recommends.
The Union made the case in the Court, however, that in its view, the rates were not fully in line, particularly at the top/LSI level of the scales. The Court therefore further suggests that the parties might compare the level of the long service increment in line with the previous arrangements which existed between the parties.
The Court so recommends.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
30th April, 2007______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Madelon Geoghegan, Court Secretary.