Staff at Bord Gais fail to win payout in uniform row
Published 09/08/2011 | 05:00
MORE than 600 Bord Gais staff have failed to win compensation after they were not given new uniforms, which would have cost the semi-state €300,000.
The Labour Court found it was not appropriate to give any compensation payments, the Irish Independent has learned.
The Bord Gais office staff claimed they had run up "considerable" expense when they did not receive the uniforms, known as "corporate clothing", which they usually get every two years.
But management last night insisted that the workers were not left out of pocket as they were not required to purchase new work uniforms. Rather, Bord Gais said the staff were allowed wear their own clothes to work, while a small minority continued to wear their old uniforms.
Under an 11-year-old deal, staff at Bord Gais were entitled to get two jackets, four pairs of trousers, eight shirts, and two ties. Women got two jackets, four skirts and eight blouses.
Staff got the uniforms in 2004 and 2007 and were due to receive them again in 2009, but the company decided to suspend the arrangement.
Bord Gais said it feared the clothing would quickly become useless, because it was uncertain about its future branding, due to new EU energy policies.
These policies meant the company would be restructured.
"Bord Gais welcomes the ruling of the Labour Court that it will not recommend compensation payments to employees as a result of this decision," it said.
It said it wants to discuss a "common sense approach" to the issue of branded corporate clothing with unions with a view to cutting costs "in the current environment".
A spokeswoman said employees had never received a cash allowance for the clothing in the past, as the garments were given to them directly. And she said staff were not compelled to buy replacement uniforms when the company decided it would not buy another batch.
"Staff did not purchase their own uniforms in 2009 -- the company was entirely flexible in terms of dress code subject to staff wearing appropriate work attire," she said.
SIPTU argued staff were entitled to the uniform every two years under a deal known as the Response 2000 Change Agreement. It said Bord Gais made a "considerable saving" by failing to meet the terms of the agreement so the workers "should be compensated accordingly".
Although the court did not recommend compensation be paid, it found the employer had broken its agreement with staff and this "cannot be condoned". It said it should have raised the matter with the union and sought agreement. A SIPTU spokesperson was not available for further comment last night.