INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
- AND -
SIPTU (CORK NO 4.)
TECHNICAL, ENGINEERING AND ELECTRICAL UNION
Chairman: Mr Duffy
Employer Member: Mr Murphy
Worker Member: Mr O'Neill
1. Dispute concerning discontinuation of Company Bus.
2. This case concerns a dispute between Bulmers Limited and the Unions (SIPTU, UNITE and TEEU) in relation to Company proposals for the discontinuation of the Company Bus service which is used to transport workers to and from work.
The Company's position is that there are fewer employees using the service in recent years and the costs to the Company of providing the bus (approximately €100,000 p.a.) are unsustainable and cannot be continued. The Unions' position is that the service has been provided for many years and employee contributions should have been increased during that time. It contends that the service should be continued and that the workers are willing to increase their contributions to ensure the viability of the service going forward.
The dispute was not 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 matter was referred to the Labour Court on 29th October, 2008 in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. A Labour Court hearing took place on the 25th November, 2008, the earliest date suitable tothe parties.
3. 1. The Company provided the service for many years and contiunes to be extremely profitable. An expectation exists that the provision of the Company Bus service is a condition of employment, set out in the Company/ Union agreement and should be continued.
2. The employee contribution to the cost of the service could have been increased by management but was not. Nonetheless, the workers who use the service are willing to increase their contributions by the Consumer Price Index since the service began. This will assist in the viability of the service into the future.
3. As the service is available to all staff, it is appropriate that removing the service would result in compensation for all workers and not just those using the service. It is, however, more appropriate in the circumstances to retain the Company Bus service.
4. 1. The provision of the Company bus service is not a condition of employment of the workers. It is a service provided by managment for many years but is no longer financially viable giving the reduction in service users and continued increase in costs.
2. The Company is operating in an extremely competitive market and has experienced significant losses in terms of market share. In the current economic climate it must continue to make prudent financial decisions to secure employment into the future.
3. The Company has offered generous compensation to those affected by the discontinuation of the service.
The Court notes that the provision of the Company bus service now in dispute has been available to employees of the Company wishing to avail of it for many years. However, the Court is not satisfied that the availability of this service can be regarded as a condition of employment as that term is normally understood. In any event no provision, whether a condition of employment or otherwise, can be regarded as immutable for all time.
There is no doubt that the demand for this service has diminished in recent years and this has been accompanied by a significant increase in the costs of the service. In that regard, the Court is not satisfied that any increase in the charge to employees, which could realistically be levied, could result in the service being rendered viable. In these circumstances, the Court is satisfied that the Company's proposal to discontinue the service is reasonable.
The Court recommends that the service remain in place until 31st March 2009 at which point it be discontinued. The Company should make a compensatory lump sum available in the amount of €150,000 to be divided amongst those affected by the discontinuance. The Union should make proposals as to how this amount should be distributed and in the event of a failure of the parties to agree, that matter should be referred to the Independent Facilitator who previously assisted the parties on this and other industrial relations issues.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
23rd December, 2008.______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Andrew Heavey, Court Secretary.