Hotel told to reinstate staff on old pay rates

 

THE LABOUR Court has found five housekeeping staff at the Davenport Hotel in Dublin who have been at the centre of a dispute over pay cuts for the past month should be returned to the roster on their original rates of pay.

In a recommendation issued yesterday, the court also said the staff should be paid all the money they would have earned had they not been removed from the roster in early February.

Management at the hotel, which forms part of the O’Callaghan Hotel Group, and trade union Siptu, representing the staff, had agreed to be bound by the court finding. The hotel is operated by a firm known as Persian Properties.

The dispute was believed to be the first resulting from attempts by a company to cut pay of existing personnel since the outgoing Government cut the national minimum wage rate in February.

In its recommendation, the Labour Court found the workers involved were accommodation assistants who had been paid the previous national minimum wage rate of €8.65 per hour.

It said that at a meeting on January 25th last the five workers concerned and colleagues from other hotels in the group were advised of a pending pay cut. “It was claimed that the cut was necessary because of the reduction in the national minimum wage,” it said.

In late January, all the minimum wage earners were again called to a meeting at which they were called on individually to sign a form giving their employer consent to implement a 10 per cent pay cut from February 1st, 2011, reducing their pay from €8.65 to €7.80 per hour, it added. “The five workers concerned refused to sign the form and were called to a third meeting on February 1st, 2011, and advised that if they did not sign the form they would be removed from the roster. As the workers still refused to sign the form they were removed from the roster and also from the payroll.”

Siptu argued there was no agreement on the part of the staff to the pay cut. It said the employer had sought the workers’ consent to the pay cut, with the clear implication that if it was not given they would be removed from the payroll, with the possibility of having no earnings as opposed to earning less.

The company maintained that due to a most difficult trading period it had no choice but to take out significant costs. It said labour costs were a major element of operating costs. Its primary interest was one of job security for its employees – hence the approach to all employees to reduce pay.

The court stated that because it had not been given any information on the trading performance of the hotel, it could not support the company’s submission that the reduction in pay was necessary to sustain jobs. “In this regard the court notes that the company was not pleading inability to pay in respect of this matter.”

Labour Court deputy chairman Brendan Hayes said in the absence of trading information that would justify the need for a pay cut or the availability of fair procedures for securing workers’ approval thereto, or for resolving disagreement with the proposal, the court found the employer’s actions were “not fair and reasonable in all the circumstances of this case”.