ADJUDICATION OFFICER RECOMMENDATION
Adjudication Reference: ADJ-00015789
A semi-state body.
Maria Geraghty, SIPTU.
Ciaran Loughran, Ibec
Complaint/Dispute Reference No.
Date of Receipt
Complaint seeking adjudication by the Workplace Relations Commission under section 13 of the Industrial Relations Act, 1969
Date of Adjudication Hearing: 28/09/2018
Workplace Relations Commission Adjudication Officer: Jim Dolan
In accordance with Section 41 of the Workplace Relations Act, 2015 and/or Section 13 of the Industrial Relations Acts 1969 following the referral of the complaint to me by the Director General, I inquired into the complaint and gave the parties an opportunity to be heard by me and to present to me any evidence relevant to the complaint.
The complainant has been employed by the Respondent since 11th April 1978, he is currently employed as a truck driver.
The Complainant’s daily work involves driving loads from the various sites the Respondent has to Dublin port. On 6th April 2018 the Complainant parked his vehicle in front of the unloading shed blocking the access for other vehicles. This was a protest in relation to delays being incurred by the Complainant and other colleagues at the unloading facility in the port. The situation became serious and the harbour police became involved.
The Complainant was issued with a Final Written Warning after an extensive investigation and it is the severity of this disciplinary sanction that the hearing in the Workplace Relations Commission was requested to investigate.
The Complainant totally accepts that his actions on 6th April 2018 were wrong and admits that he should have utilised the Respondent’s Grievance Procedure.
Summary of Complainant’s Case:
The Complainant has long service with the Respondent. The ongoing change in his job has seen the introduction of contract drivers over the years. This was an accepted practice and an unwritten rule exists that the Respondent’s employees had priority at unloading locations. This implied agreement was being ignored and causing arguments at the unloading facility in Dublin Port between the Respondent employed drivers and the contracted drivers. The Complainant, in his role as Shop Steward for the past three years reported this to management. The issue has been raised with his supervisor, his manager and his trade union.
On 06/04/2018 the Complainant took matters into his own hands and blocked the entry to the unloading shed at Dublin port. This was not a planned action on behalf of the Complainant, it was done out of frustration. The Complainant has apologised for his actions on the day and has also given a commitment never to repeat this action. During the appeal hearing the Complainant accepted that he was wrong and has shown remorse.
Going forward the Complainant is committed to using the Grievance Procedure. The Complainant, in his role of Shop Steward, has only received one day of basic training and the policy of utilising the Grievance Procedure is not one he is familiar with.
The Complainant has taken responsibility for his actions on 06/04/2018 however management should take responsibility for their contributory negligence.
The Complainant highlighted his and other driver’s dissatisfaction with the delays and lack of planning.
The Complainant believes his action was due to frustration. The Complainant had tried to engage with his employer without success.
For all of the mentioned reasons the Complainant believes the sanction should not be a Final Written Warning and is unwarranted after 40 years’ service with the Respondent and seeks the removal of this sanction from his record.
Summary of Respondent’s Case:
The Respondent’s submission provided a time line of events starting with the incident on 06/04/2018 and culminating in the outcome of the appeal hearing on 26th June 2018 – the facts as presented are not being disputed.
As submitted by the Complainant in his claim form to the WRC, he is seeking “to appeal a sanction of a Final Written Warning”
The port facility in managed and operated by a third party under contract to the Respondent.
The shed is a long building with access through a number of doors. The trucks enter the shed and reverse into position and discharge their loads. The product is then stockpiled using a bulldozer, this machine is operated by the third party. When the shed is full all trucks have to enter and exit by the same doorway, a truck has to enter, discharge its load and exit before the next truck enters, turnaround time can be in the region of twenty minutes.
When the Complainant entered the shed on the day in question he refused to leave and thus he prevented the next truck from entering, he only left the shed when requested to do so by the harbour police.
The Complainant at no stage raised a grievance through the Respondent’s Grievance Procedure.
The facts of the case are not in dispute.
It is the Respondent’s position that at the core of any organisation is the need for satisfactory standards from its employees.
The Respondent conducted a fair process and the Complainant was afforded all the benefits of fair procedure. This fact is not being disputed by the Complainant.
Normal employee relations practice would dictate that the mechanism for raising issues is to utilise the internal grievance process. The Complainant failed to utilise these procedures and instead decided to undertake his own form of protest.
The actions of the Complainant impacted in the following way:
· Contractors could not discharge their loads and get extra loads (loss of earnings for them).
· Health and Safety – lorries were parked for a number of hours.
· Possibility of short loading a ship – ships have to operate to a strict and rigid plan.
· Loss of haulage as lorries held up and failed to make enough runs to pay drivers wages.
To find in favour of the Complainant would have serious implications for any Company in relation to any industrial action, as it would mean that any individual can simply decide to take their own action without following the agreed internal processes.
Findings and Conclusions:
There is no argument in relation to events as outlined. The Complainant at hearing fully accepted that his actions on the day in question were wrong.
I believe the matter of trucks unloading at Dublin port has been the subject of a hearing at the Respondent’s internal arbitration forum and that bodies findings were that due to the presence of a third party in both managing and operating the facility at Dublin port they could not recommend that the Respondent’s own drivers be given priority over contractors.
The submission from the Complainant’s union representative suggests that he only had very basic training from his union. After three years as a shop steward should he have known better than to take matters into his own hands?
As pointed out at hearing, the Complainant, who appears (rightly so) to be very proud of his service history with the Respondent, through his actions brought the Respondent company into disrepute. It is never a good idea to involve third parties in internal grievances.
Overall, I have to make a recommendation in this instant case. In issuing the Complainant with a Final Written Warning I believe the Respondent has accurately highlighted the seriousness of this incident.
If the Complainant is as remorseful as stated at hearing and has vowed never to take matters into his own hands again the Respondent may give serious consideration to shortening the life span of the Final Written Warning to six months, i.e. it is removed from his record on 27th November 2018.
Section 13 of the Industrial Relations Acts, 1969 requires that I make a recommendation in relation to the dispute.
As outlined above.
Dated: 26 October 2018
Workplace Relations Commission Adjudication Officer: Jim Dolan