SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Mr Haugh
Employer Member: Mr Murphy
Worker Member: Ms Tanham
1. Boc Gases and twenty five Drivers represented By SIPTU
2. This dispute could not be resolved at local level and was the subject of Conciliation Conferences under the auspices of the Workplace Relations Commission. As agreement was not reached, the dispute was referred to the Labour Court on 13 September 2019 in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. A Labour Court hearing took place on 15 November 2019.
3. 1. The Union is claiming that the Company breached a collective agreement by cutting the number of relief drivers.
2. The Union claims that having less than four relief drivers has a detrimental effect on drivers securing requested annual leave.
4. 1. The Employer maintains that the amendment to relief driver numbers was agreed with the relevant local Union representatives as well as the driver group.
2. The Employer maintains that the current arrangement is the most desirable option in the current business climate.
Background to the Dispute
The within dispute concerns twenty-five drivers (‘the Workers’) working in the Sureserve Division of BOC Gases Ireland Limited (‘the Company’). The Union and the Company entered into a comprehensive collective agreement (‘the 2003 Agreement’) in 2003. This was revised, by agreement, in 2007 and again in 2011. The 2003 Agreement makes provision, inter alia, for relief driver cover.
The number of full-time routes operated by the Workers has increased in 2018 from nineteen to twenty-one. These routes are operated by twenty-one full-time drivers who are supported by a number of relief drivers who provide cover when colleagues are on leave or attending training.
The Union submits that the Company has - in contravention of the 2003 Agreement - and without consultation - reduced the number of relief drivers employed nationally from four to three, notwithstanding the increase in the number of fixed routes. It is the Union’s case that this reduction in the number of available relief drivers is impacting on its Members' ability to avail themselves of annual leave and days off to attend family events.
The Company accepts that the number of fixed routes was increased following a review of the business in 2014/2015. At the time, one relief driver was moved into a permanent route. This did not result in a reduction in overall headcount. From the Company’s perspective, a total three relief drivers was deemed adequate to provide the necessary backup cover. The Company told the Court that it had engaged with the then local Union Representatives in early 2015 to explain the rationale for these changes. The Company spokesman also told the Court that no issues in relation to accessing annual leave or time off have escalated to Management.
The Court recommends that the Parties re-engage in relation to the within dispute and in doing so they should avail themselves of the assistance of the Advisory Service of the Workplace Relations Commission with a view to reaching agreement by 31 May 2020. In the meantime, pending the outcome of the Parties’ engagement, the status quo – as per the 2003 Agreement (including clause 8 thereof, which provides for temporary/agency staff in certain circumstances) should continue to be applied by both Parties.
The Court so recommends.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
16 December 2019Deputy Chairman
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to David Campbell, Court Secretary.