INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
NATIONAL BUS & RAIL UNION
Chairman: Mr Duffy
Employer Member: Mr Grier
Worker Member: Mr O'Neill
1. Interpretation Of Training Responsibilities For Drivers (For Arbitration) And Compensation For Period Of Removal From The Payroll (Section 26).
2. This dispute concerns the interpretation of a new programme for training locomotive drivers which was introduced in 2005. The Company maintains that under this programme any qualified driver can be required to take responsibility for the training train while the trainee under instruction drives the train under the instruction of an instructor. The Unions, however, argue that drivers who are not mentors cannot be required to operate the training train, and that a driver who is on the training train should not be responsible for the train when the trainee is driving it under the instruction of a driver.
The Company states that on 6th June 2008 it removed two drivers from the payroll for refusing to drive the training train. The Unions rejects any suggestion that the drivers refused to drive a training train; considers the Company's actions to be in breach of its Grievance, Disciplinary Policies and Procedures; and is seeking compensation for the loss of earnings suffered by the two drivers.
This 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 16th July 2008, in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. A Labour Court hearing took place on the 21st July 2008, the earliest date suitable to the parties.
3. 1. Participation in the Company's mentoring and driver training programmes has always been voluntary.
2. The drivers did not refuse to drive the training train; they simply brought theirbona fidessafety concerns to the Company's attention.
3.The Company's removal of the two drivers from the payroll was in breach of its own Grievance, Disciplinary Policies and Procedures.
4. 1. The two drivers refused to work and in the circumstances concerned, the Company's responded in a very measured way to their unofficial industrial action.
2. The application of the Company'sGrievance, Disciplinary Policies and Procedures would not have been appropriate, particularly as the drivers refused to continue to work under protest. Concession of this claim would encourage further unofficial industrial action.
3.Drivers have an established responsibility to support training in the manner in which they are and have been assigned.
While this dispute was referred to the Court pursuant to Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act 1990, it was agreed between the parties that in respect of this aspect of the case the Court would issue a binding decision.
The Court has taken full account of the submissions made by the parties. It is noted that the arrangement whereby a trainee driver would travel with an experienced driver, and take control of the train, has been in operation throughout the Company since 2005. No objection has previously been raised to any aspect of this arrangement. The Court can see no rational or reasonable basis for objection to this arrangement, which is clearly necessary for the effective training of drivers.
It is the opinion of the Court that this duty is inherent in the general range of duties to which a qualified locomotive driver can be assigned. Accordingly it is the decision of the Court that this duty is proper to drivers and should be undertaken as directed.
Compensation for period of removal from payroll
This dispute came before the Court against the background of serious unofficial action by certain drivers concerning cooperation with aspects of flexibilities and training. Unofficial industrial action damages the Company, inflicts unnecessary and unacceptable hardship on the travelling public and brings the entire workforce of the Company into disrepute. Such conduct cannot be condoned in any way or in any circumstances. The action in question was rightly condemned by the Unions representing staff and their stance in that regard is to be commended.
In this case the drivers refused to carry out a legitimate instruction of management. If they had difficulty with the instruction they were obligated to undertake the duty, as instructed, under protest if necessary. Any issues or concerns arising could then have been dealt with through normal procedures. Instead the workers chose not to undertake the duty to which they were assigned and for which they were rostered.
In these circumstances the Company acted reasonably and in line with normal practice in removing the workers concerned from the payroll for as long as they refused to undertake the duties to which they were legitimately assigned.
In these circumstances the Court cannot recommend that the workers concerned be compensated for the resulting loss of earnings.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
28th July, 2008______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Jonathan McCabe, Court Secretary.