Case Number: ADJ-00000007. Workplace Relations Commission

CourtWorkplace Relations Commission
Docket NumberADJ-00000007
Date01 May 2016
PartiesEmployee v Employer
ADJUDICATION OFFICER DECISION

Adjudication Decision Reference: ADJ-00000007

Dispute for Resolution:

Act

Dispute Reference No.

Date of Receipt

Complaint seeking adjudication by the Workplace Relations Commission under section 13 of the Industrial Relations Act, 1946

CA-00000007-001

01/10/2015

Date of Adjudication Hearing: 18/01/2016

Workplace Relations Commission Adjudication Officer: Kevin Baneham

Procedure:

On the 1st October 2015, the complainant referred a dispute pursuant to section 13 of the Industrial Relations Act to the Workplace Relations Commission. The complainant is a member of cabin crew and the respondent is an airline.

In accordance with the Workplace Relations Act, 2015 following the referral of the dispute to me by the Director General, I inquired into the dispute and gave the parties an opportunity to be heard by me and to present to me any evidence relevant to the dispute.

Complainant’s Submission and Presentation:

The complainant commenced employment with the respondent on the 10th December 2000 as a member of cabin crew. The respondent operates a facility that permits staff to “jump seat” travel on its flights outside of their work duties and this facility is governed by a set of rules. She outlines that this dispute arises out of an inadvertent breach on her part of the rules, where it was common practice to do as she did. She outlines that this dispute arises from events in July 2015 where she travelled between Dublin and Manchester availing of a jump seat ticket. In advance of these flights on the 7th and 11th July 2015, the complainant said she contacted airline operations and the relevant captains to obtain permission to use of the jump seat. She was informed by the captains that she would be accommodated in the cabin and would not physically occupy the jump seat in the cockpit.

The complainant said that it was common for staff travelling on jump seat arrangements to be accommodated within the cabin. She outlined while the rules were clear that she had to be in uniform to occupy the jump seat in the cockpit, they were not explicit that she had to wear the uniform while seated in the cabin when travelling by way of a jump seat arrangement. She said that she had brought her uniform for this trip but was not wearing it as she had been informed that she would be sitting in the cabin. She said that she did not think it necessary for her to be wearing the uniform while seated in the cabin, and this was the common practice of members of cabin crew and pilots in the airline. The complainant outlined that she had bought a staff ticket for both flights but was able to redeem them because she had been able to avail of the jump seat. She was aware that there were occasions in which it might not be possible to avail of a jump seat, necessitating the use of the staff ticket. The complainant outlined that in October 2014 when she had travelled in the cabin while listed in the passenger manifest as occupying the jump seat, but while not wearing a uniform. There was one other occasion where she had availed of a jump seat, but was then in uniform.

This dispute arose when a senior member of the respondent emailed a senior colleague to say that he had overheard that the complainant was trying to board a flight on the 7th July 2015 without a ticket. The email is dated the 8th July 2015. The first the complainant was aware of the issue arose from a telephone call and email she received from the base manager to summons her to an investigation meeting. This meeting took place on the 29th July 2015. From the notes of the investigation meeting of this date, the investigator raises the issue of the complainant using her work ID to access the airport when she was not on duty. There is also reference to an email from one captain, but the complainant said that the respondent later withdrew its reliance on this email. The matter progressed to a disciplinary hearing, held on the 14th August 2015. The complainant sought to submit correspondence from colleagues, which she suggested provided evidence that what she had done was common practice. In correspondence dated the 20th August 2015, the Training and Compliance Manager found that there had been breaches of policies related to the cockpit jump seat, the Cabin Safety Procedures Manual, the conditions of use of an airport permit and staff travel policies. Because of the severity of the breaches and how they pertain to airport security and airline security, the report recommends a Final Written Warning be given to the complainant to be retained for 12 months. Because of the breaches of Staff Travel arrangements and the jump seat policy, it recommended removal of her travel privileges and her use of the jump seat for two years.

The complainant appealed this outcome and attended an appeal hearing on the 16th September 2015. Following this the Chief Operations Officer issued findings that there had been serious breaches of airport security and that a Final Written Warning would be placed on her file for 12 months. The appeal on the severity of the sanctions imposed for the breaches of the jump seat policy was upheld and the revocation of her staff privileges and eligibility for travel on the jump seat was reduced to 15 months. As part of this dispute, the complainant challenges the findings that she breached company policy as well as the sanctions imposed on her. The complainant submits that it was clear that a member of cabin crew occupying a jump seat was required to wear a uniform; it was also clear that such a person flying on a staff ticket was not required to wear a uniform. It was not clear, however, that a member of cabin crew booked to fly on a jump seat but accommodated within the cabin had to wear a uniform. In respect of airport security, the complainant said that because she was travelling by way of a jump seat booking, she had no option but to use the staff entrance to the airport. She would not be issued a boarding pass and could not avail of the passenger entrance to the airside part of the airport. She was not in uniform when passing through airport security and they confirmed that she was travelling on a jump seat. In respect of Manchester airport, the complainant said that she had offered airport security her staff ID card, but they insisted on her producing a driving licence, which she did. She did not accept the submissions made by the respondent that staff availing of jump seat arrangements were included in the supernumerary crew referred to in the Cabin Safety protocols; they relate to personnel who are travelling to bases to commence work or other personnel rostered to work.

The complainant outlined that she was currently not in work, because of illness related to the workplace. Her representative outlined that included in her claim is a claim for consequent loss of earnings. The complainant indicated that separately, she had initiated a grievance complaint against a named member of staff.

In the complaint form, the complainant makes reference to being required to attend security training and takes issue with having to attend this training in uniform. At the hearing, the complainant and her representative outlined that such a request was unprecedented. She had been asked to attend the training session on a particular date but could not do this as she was on annual leave that day. She was given an alternative date, but this too was on a day of scheduled annual leave. In email correspondence, the complainant was informed that the training session was not part of the disciplinary sanction but that she was required to attend in uniform. She was told that this was required by the Cabin Operations Manager and had only been previously a requirement in first aid training.

In closing submissions, the complainant outlined that the respondent was entitled to regulate staff travel, including on jump seats. The respondent was not entitled to penalise an employee where the relevant policy was not clear. In this case, the breach by the complainant was unwitting. It had been the airline and not the airport that had invoked the issue of the breach of airport security. A crew member could seek to travel on a jump seat for purposes other than when being on duty. When they obtained such permission, they would not be issued a boarding pass and therefore could only get access by presenting their access permit to get airside. They did...

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