Press Release

SIPTU members win significant Workplace Relations Commission case over unpaid wages

Date Released: 06 April 2021

A major manufacturing company based in county Limerick has been found to have made unlawful deductions from the pay of some of its workers by the Workplace Relations Commission. The case, involving 48 SIPTU members, arose following a cut in wages for workers put on short-time working by the company in 2019.

At the hearing, SIPTU representatives successfully argued under Section 5 of the Payment of Wages Act 1991 that the workers were entitled to be paid for the period they were on short-time because they had not consented to, nor was there a term and condition in the workers contracts of employment, providing for unpaid short-time.  Despite arguments from management that the unpaid wages being sought were not “properly payable” and that the company had an implied right to place workers on unpaid short-time due to a practice established during the economic crash in 2008, a Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) Adjudicator found in favour of the workers.

The WRC Adjudicator said: “The obvious purpose behind the provisions of section 5 is to prevent an employer from reducing wages, otherwise payable, without the authority of a statute or a contractual term express or implied within the employee's contract. There is nothing to suggest that the affected employees had agreed to an open-ended commitment to accept shorter-hours and lesser wages whenever the Respondent chose unilaterally to introduce short-time working.”

The WRC Adjudicator continued: “Where a deduction is made in an employee’s salary it is incumbent on the employer making the deduction to identify the statutory or contractual provision under which that deduction is authorised.”

SIPTU Organiser, Joe Kelly, said: “Clearly, the decision to cut the hours and pay of our members was made by management in 2019 without any prior consultation with union representatives. The majority of SIPTU members impacted by this decision had long service and contracts guaranteeing them a full working week of 39 hours. They felt they were treated with total disregard by management, forced into financial hardship and pressed the union to take the matter further. We now hope that upon receiving this WRC decision that management will accept it as a fair and reasonable outcome and honour the agreed terms of our members contracts across the board. SIPTU representatives expect this WRC ruling to act as a deterrent to any other employers considering a similar course of action.”

SIPTU Worker’s Rights Centre Advocate, Deirdre Canty said: “SIPTU’s Workers Rights Centre has taken numerous claims for our individual membership. However, we also work very closely with the union’s industrial staff to protect the rights of our collective membership regarding workplace legislation. This outcome demonstrates the success what can be achieved for our members by various divisions and departments working together. This is a very significant win for our members and has the potential for a much broader impact across the industry and employment rights in general.”


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