Workers win case over wage deductions by Limerick firm

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SIPTU Workers Rights Centre Advocate Deirdre Canty

SIPTU members have won a significant case in the Labour Court which ruled that a major County Limerick manufacturing company made unlawful deductions from their pay when it temporarily reduced their hours of work in 2019.

SIPTU Workers Rights Centre (WRC) Advocate, Deirdre Canty, said the case was in relation to an appeal taken by the company to an earlier decision by the Workplace Relations Commission.

“It involved a claim by 48 of our members that arose from their loss of wages when their employer temporarily reduced their hours of employment in 2019,” Ms Canty explained.

“The claim was successful at the WRC where the argument was made that the workers were entitled to be paid their full contractual hours. This was due to the fact that they had not consented to, nor was there a term and condition in their contracts of employment providing for a reduction in their wages when their contractual hours were reduced.

“Despite arguments from management that the company had an implied right to reduce the worker’s hours and therefore their pay due to such ‘a custom and practice’ having been established after the economic crash in 2008, the case was ruled in favour of the workers.

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“This decision was appealed by management to the Labour Court which rejected the appeal on the basis that there was no specific clause in the contracts of employment of our members which ‘explicitly expressed’ that the company could reduce their pay in line with a reduction in their contractual hours of work.

“This means that our members are now due the monies which were found to have been illegally deducted from their wages.”

She added: “This is a very significant win for our members and has the potential for a much broader impact across the manufacturing industry and for employment rights in general.”

SIPTU Organiser, Joe Kelly, said: “The decision to cut the hours and pay of our members was made by management in 2019 without any prior consultation with their union representatives. The majority of SIPTU members affected by this decision had long service and contracts guaranteeing them a full working week of 39 hours.

“They now hope that management will accept it acted illegally and honour the agreed terms of their contracts across the board. SIPTU representatives expect this Labour Court ruling to act as a deterrent to any other employers considering a similar course of action.”

SIPTU shop steward, Padraig Power, said: “We are very happy with the outcome as our members have suffered financially due to management actions in this case. We are very pleased that the Labour Court has vindicated our claim.”