THIRTEEN staff at Cork city’s Marks & Spencers store have been told the company acted fairly toward them after they did not attend a shift during high wind and heavy snowfall last year.
The Labour Court has found in favour of the retail giant following a dispute that arose when staff were not paid for the shifts they had missed on one day during Storm Emma in March of last year where Government advice was that people should not travel. The store closed at 11am that day.
The dispute between staff and Marks and Spencers was referred to the Labour Court after a failure to reach an agreement at a local level and at the Workplace Relations Commission between the retailer and the union representing the staff.
Staff claimed they heeded the requests made by the National Emergency Co-ordination Group, the Taoiseach and various Government Ministers to stay at home and to stay safe.
The said they contacted the store to inform management that they would not be at work due to the adverse weather conditions and claim they complied with the Marks & Spencer work attendance policy.
The 13 staff members believe that the company acted unreasonably in failing to pay them for any part of their shift - particularly as the store closed at 11am and the bulk of their rostered hours were due to be worked after that time.
However, the company stated they gave staff four options to choose from to make up the lost hours and were treated exactly the same as all other staff.
Management claimed that it had a duty to be fair to the hundreds of other staff members who attended work on the morning of the storm and worked until the store closed.
The company said all staff were paid in full as normal during the adverse weather and no one was at any loss of pay at any point.
The recommendation from the Labour Court stated: “It is clear that a high premium must be placed upon an employer in such circumstances treating all of its employees in a consistent manner.
“The employer has submitted that all staff affected were offered four options in order to deal with an incapacity to attend at work on the day in question. It is submitted that all but the 13 staff members represented before the Court have taken up one of those options.
“In all of the circumstances the Court must support the proposition that a consistent approach to all staff is in the interest of good industrial relations and consequently cannot recommend concession of the Union’s claim.”