DUBLIN AIRPORT AUTHORITY
1.Claim for Increments and Pay Progression.
The dispute between the parties arises from a decision by Management to pause the payment of increments that fell due in April 2020 and pay progression payment that fell due in 2021. Payments were implemented the following year April 2021 and January 2022. Management submitted that it was necessary to do this to address financial implications arising from the Covid-19 pandemic. A total of 1,026 collectively bargained for workers were affected by this decision. The Unions submitted that the Employer had unilaterally imposed this pause.
It is acknowledged that the situation facing the DAA in 2020 was unprecedented but the problems were not unique to that company nor were they caused by the workers. The DAA received extensive financial support from the Government and benefitted from the Temporary Wage Subsidy schemes and the Employment wage Subsidy Scheme.
The Workers covered by this dispute either receive incremental credit or pay progression depending on when they commenced employment. Both pay models are contained in the relevant contracts and arose from collective agreements. There is nothing in either the contract or the collective agreement that allows the Employer to impose a pay pause as happened on this occasion.
The Unions have entered into collective agreements that have resulted in very significant savings for the Employer. The DAA are currently engaging in two major projects along with implementing bonus payments to its staff. In the circumstances there is no reason why this cohort of staff should not have the missed payments re-stored.
The Employer submitted that there are 1802 workers whose pay is normally determined by increments and pay progression. Of the 1026 who are still progressing through either their relevant incremental pay scale or pay band, 151 employees are paid increments and 875 are done through pay progression.
The Employer submits that the decision to pause the payments which were restarted twelve months later was not taken lightly. It was a very difficult time for the Employer and there was a lot of uncertainty. At the time the Employer had little or no money coming in and they were looking at measures to cut costs.
They initially left all employees on 100% hours and pay but after a short period staff were moved to 80% with the exception of a small number of key workers.
As part of the cost containment measures no pay related increases were applied to any worker.
The Employer engaged consistently with the Unions throughout the pandemic and all affected workers were written to and advised of the decision and the rationale for same.
At the request of the Unions the Employer had given a commitment at the commencement of the pandemic that there would be no compulsory redundancies or permanent changes to core terms and conditions of employment. This limited the option available to the Employer in terms of achieving cost containment.
It was accepted in the course of the hearing, that this cohort of workers, unlike their colleagues who were on the maximum point of their scale/pay band had been hit on the double as they were also impacted by the general pay pause.
It was a not disputed by either party, that there is a collective bargaining structure in place for this category of Workers and that the structure requires that both parties engage to resolve any issues that arise.
The Employer in this case sought to engage after they unilaterally imposed a change to the existing arrangements for the payment of increments and pay progression.
Where there are agreed collective bargaining structures in place the Court cannot condone the failure by one of the parties to utilise those procedures to bring about change even if it is a temporary change.
The role of the Court in industrial relations dispute of this nature is to investigate the dispute and if it believes that it can be of assistance in the resolution of the dispute to make a recommendation to that effect.
The Court having heard the parties and considered the exceptional circumstances that prevailed at that time, recommends that on acceptance of this recommendation by the parties the outstanding increment /pay progression be paid with effect from the date of this recommendation, and that each Worker be paid a lumpsum equal to six months payment of the increment/ pay progression in full and final settlement of this dispute.
The Court so recommends.