An NUJ member working in Dublin Radio station FM104 has won a Payment of Wages case taken against station owners UTV.
The claim concerned non-payment of a service increment. Under a collective agreement a service increment is to be paid after a reporter has completed five years continuous service at the Basic Senior rate.
Following UTV's refusal to pay the service increment, efforts were made to resolve the issue locally and the chapel was prepared to make serious concessions to do so. However, following a number of conciliation hearings facilitated by the LRC, talks broke down without agreement.
The main point of contention was the company’s insistence that any deal was conditional on it being made outside of the collective agreement and that individual contracts would be issued. Clearly this was unacceptable to the NUJ and the union had no choice but to proceed with a Payment of Wages Case.
UTV is regarded as being hostile to trade unions. The FM104 collective agreement is a legacy from the previous owners and the chapel put great value on it.
At the hearing the company argued that it was not liable to pay the service increment as they had put in place a pay freeze and that this pay freeze applied to increments. They also argued that the house agreement had not been updated since 2008 and therefore had expired and did not apply to the member.
The NUJ argued that the pay freeze had been imposed unilaterally and was not subject to discussion or negotiation. The union said that the collective agreement had been in place since 1993 and its terms had largely remained the same since then. The NUJ said that the collective formed part of the members terms and conditions of employment and that there was no agreement to alter the current agreement and nor did the claimant give his consent in writing.
The clause in the agreement reads: “Senior newsroom and programming staff will receive a premium of 25%. Senior newsroom and programming staff will be defined as journalists who have been in receipt of the BSR for a period of 5 years or more”.
In her decision the Rights Commissioner said: “This house agreement remains in force in the absence of any other negotiated house agreement. This house agreement applies to the claimant in the absence of written statement of his terms and conditions of employment.” She found that the decision not to pay the 25% premia amounted to a deduction from pay and that the claimant did not give their prior consent in writing to it. She said that the claimant is entitled to payment of the 25% on the date that it fell due and awarded appropriate compensation.
The NUJ member said “I’m absolutely delighted with the result, the NUJ really batted hard for me and this result shows how important it is to have a strong union.”
Nicola Coleman, NUJ Irish Organiser, said: “Payment of wages cases are notoriously difficult cases to win these days and many decisions have been taken that have astounded union officials therefore we are delighted with this result.
“Clearly UTV cannot get away with de facto de-recognition of a long standing collective agreement with the NUJ. There is now an onus on them to apply the terms to all of our members in FM104”.
Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary said: “This is great news for the union and goes to show one of the many reasons it pays to be in the NUJ.”