EMPLOYMENT APPEALS TRIBUNAL
Betty O'Connor - claimant
Donabate Golf Club Limited - respondent
UNFAIR DISMISSALS ACTS 1977 TO 2007
I certify that the Tribunal
(Division of Tribunal)
Chairman: Mr C. Corcoran B.L.
Members: Mr D. Peakin
Mr F. Keoghan
heard this claim at Dublin on 8th September 2015 and 16th November 2015
Claimant: Mr Willie Hamilton, Mandate Trade Union, O'Lehane House, 9 Cavendish Row, Dublin 1
Respondent: Mr. Hugh O’Flaherty BL, instructed by Joe Ritchie, Donal M. Gahan, Ritchie & Co., Solicitors, 36 Lr. Baggot Street, Dublin 2
The determination of the Tribunal was as follows:-
The respondent is a golf club located in Co. Dublin. It was established in 1925. A new clubhouse was built in 2003 which cost €3m. CD took over as Treasurer in 2008 and remained in that role till 2010. In the period 2011 to 2014 his role was that of President of the Club.
In 2008 the club’s membership stood at around 970 members but in subsequent years due to the economic downturn the club began losing members rapidly with over 80 members in one year alone.
When CD took over the role of Treasurer he began implementing a financial structure. He produced a report and the year to date showed a progressive loss for the club. The number of members was depleting. Eleven people worked on the course, 4 employees worked in the office and two employees worked in the bar.
In 2009 the head count on the Course was reduced by three, one left and two were made redundant. In consultation with the Union, a part time employee in the office was made redundant and one employee retired, leaving two employees working in the office.
The Club’s bank was supporting them at this time. The fee membership was restructured.
Younger members left. The Club was losing members rapidly and it had to make further cuts. Salary cuts were implemented. The Club was not buying as much fertilizer, sand or any new equipment.
In 2013 the Bank requested Grant Thornton to carry out a review of the feasibility of the Club. The bank requested three further redundancies. Ultimately the Bank agreed on one redundancy.
The claimant’s role included accounting, the payroll, reconciling cash and lodgements to the Bank. She was in that role for twelve years. The other office staff member P began working for the respondent in 1997 and she looked after membership and front of house queries. The respondent wanted P to remain in that role.
The Club’s Council discussed at length the difficulties encountered by the Club and the management committee held several meetings. A decision was made to outsource the accounting section of the Club. The claimant was offered the outsourcing position. That position was one day’s work a week. She rejected this offer.
Each staff member was spoken to separately and told that the Bank was seeking one redundancy and it was non negotiable. A voluntary redundancy was sought but none was forthcoming.
The claimant had been aware of the financial difficulties in the Club. Both the Honorary Secretary and the witness met the claimant and explained the financial difficulties. The claimant offered suggestions.
By letter dated 30th May 2014 the claimant was informed of the decision to make her position redundant.
CD had no recollection of MD putting himself forward to be made redundant. LIFO had applied with the Course staff previously. This could not apply to the office and bar staff because the Club would have lost capabilities it could not replace. The jobs were not interchangeable.
Since the claimant was made redundant her work has been re-assigned to the honorary secretary.
The claimant worked as a book-keeper and secretary manager for the respondent. She commenced working for the respondent in late September 2002. She was on a salary of circa €3525.00 per month.
The claimant together with three other members of staff were called to a meeting on 21st March 2014. They were told that the financial situation was such that the Club was seeking a voluntary redundancy. No one was interested.
On 15th April 2014 the claimant was informed that she was being made redundant.
In 2009 when the respondent had to make redundancies the Union was involved in discussions at the time. On a previous occasion when staff were being made redundant LIFO applied.
On 25th April 2014 the claimant put a proposal to the respondent that LIFO be applied. She believed her proposal was not given due consideration. The claimant believed the four jobs were interchangeable.
On 27th June 2014 CD informed the claimant that she was being made redundant.
Following the decision that had been made by the respondent to make the claimant redundant, MD, Bar Manager met CD and offered to take redundancy instead of the claimant. He was told his decision would not make any difference.
The claimant had been working 54 hours a week and the situation was that the banks were micro-managing the Club because it owed €160,000 following a Court case. The bank was on her back on a daily basis to get reports to them.
The claimant had been offered her job back as a consultant to work one day a week for €10,000.00 a year. It was not possible to do the volume of work in one day a week.
Following the termination of her employment the claimant attended many interviews. Her age was against her. She has since secured part-time employment in a Community Centre. She works 20 hours each week and earns €400.00.
The Tribunal carefully considered the evidence adduced during the course of this two day hearing. The claimant put forward a proposal to the respondent as an alternative to her being made redundant. However the respondent did not engage in any meaningful way regarding this proposal with the claimant and it was ultimately rejected by the respondent.
The Tribunal finds that while the respondent experienced financial difficulties and genuine efforts were made to try and rectify this nevertheless no realistic alternatives to redundancy were explored by the respondent and the procedures adopted by the respondent especially relating to the claimant were unfair, disjointed and flawed.
The Tribunal finds the claimant was unfairly selected for redundancy and having regard to the circumstances and in particular mitigation of losses, awards her €24,000.00 under the Unfair Dismissals Acts, 1977 to 2007.
Sealed with the Seal of the
Employment Appeals Tribunal