Labour Court Database
File Number: CD90152
Case Number: LCR12989
Section / Act: S67
Parties: SOUTHERN HEALTH BOARD - and - SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Dispute concerning: (i) Improvement in shift allowance. (ii) Restoration of cover for short-term overtime.
Division: MrMcGrath Mr Brennan Mr Devine
Text of Document__________________________________________________________________
CD90152 RECOMMENDATION NO. LCR12989
INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1976
PARTIES: SOUTHERN HEALTH BOARD
(REPRESENTED BY THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT STAFF NEGOTIATIONS BOARD)
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
1. Dispute concerning:
(i) Improvement in shift allowance.
(ii) Restoration of cover for short-term overtime.
2. The claims, which concern ambulance personnel employed by the
Board at Tralee General Hospital, Co. Kerry, were discussed at
local level and at a conciliation conference held on the 16th
February, 1990. As no agreement was reached the dispute was
referred to the Labour Court on the 16th March, 1990. A Court
hearing was held in Limerick on the 13th June, 1990 the earliest
date suitable to all parties.
Claim 1 - Improvement in shift allowance:
3. Until May, 1987 the workers concerned operated a three cycle
shift system. At a meeting with the Union in May, 1987 the Board
announced a change in roster which included four-cycle twelve hour
shift working. Consequently the six-week roster formerly in
operation was reduced to a five-week roster. Under the six week
roster the workers concerned worked four Saturdays in every six
weeks at a Saturday premium of #3.99 plus thirty two hours Sunday
duty at double time. The new roster involves working three
Saturdays plus twenty four hours of Sunday duty. The current
shift premium paid to these workers is time and 1/6. The Union's
claim is for an improvement in the shift premium. Management has
rejected the claim.
4. 1. As a result of the Board's action the workers concerned
suffered a loss of earnings while the Board accrued on-going
substantial savings estimated by the Union at approximately
#30,000 p.a. The Board should therefore be able to finance an
improved rate of shift premium. Time and 1/6 is a very low
rate of premium. It was established, when eight hour shift
were the norm, under a 1978 productivity agreement. This
agreement did not envisage twelve hour shift working on a
continuous basis and the level of shift premium (i.e. Time
plus 1/6) reflected the normal eight hour type of shift
pattern. The Board introduced a different type of shift
pattern and consequently the Union is entitled to seek an
improvement in the level of shift premium. This would bring
the workers concerned into line with other shift workers
employed by the Board.
2. The imposition of the twelve-hour shift rota imposes
greater stress on ambulance personnel. Workers are now
required to put in a much longer day and their day's work is
often performed in circumstances critical to life and death.
In addition they are required to provide "on-call duty" which
on average amounts to 16.8 hours per week.
3. The Union contends that the premium of time and 1/6 is
lower than the shift premium paid to a whole range of workers
in the health service, the public service and industry
(details supplied to the Court).
4. The Board changed the conditions under which time 1/6 was
accepted as the premium for the workers concerned. The
parties to the 1978 Agreement did not and could not have
considered twelve-hour shift working. The premium of time 1/6
is clearly based on a three-cycle shift operation. The
Board's refusal to concede twelve-hour shifts to drivers in
Cork, despite their repeated requests for this type of shift,
supports the Union's claim.
5. The level of shift premium over the past number of years
has risen both in the public and private sectors. The Court,
in numerous recommendations, has been instrumental in
recognising the unsocial nature of shift working. The workers
concerned are being discriminated against in comparison to a
wide range of health board and public service workers. They
are paid the lowest level of shift premium for one of the most
5. 1. Ambulance personnel countrywide who are engaged in shift
work receive a shift premium of 1/6th of the weekly basic pay
as part compensation for the social inconvenience involved.
In addition ambulance personnel engaged in shift work receive
double time in respect of Sunday duty and a Saturday premium
of #3.99. Industrial workers who receive a shift premium of
up to 33 1/3% (four shift cycle) do not receive additional
premium payments in respect of Saturday and Sunday working.
The roster worked by the employees concerned is not as
demanding as a four shift cycle roster. The present payment
of Time 1/6 is more than adequate bearing in mind the
additional payments for Saturday and Sunday, and is the
current premium applying to shift workers employed by Health
Boards and Hospitals.
2. The 1978 Agreement (Clause 6(a)(vii)) specifically makes
provision for shifts up to and including twelve hours
duration. It should be noted that rosters which include
twelve-hour shifts are to be found elsewhere in the ambulance
service and in the case of non-nursing grades such as
boilermen. The workers concerned were already working some
eleven and twelve hour shifts prior to the new roster in 1987.
3. A revised roster which included shifts of up to twelve
hours duration was introduced for ambulance personnel at Cork
Regional Hospital in 1988. A claim for compensation for
increased unsocial working hours was the subject of a Labour
Court hearing. The Court in L.C.R. 12186 rejected the claim.
The Court has rejected a number of similar claims for improved
premia for Health Service workers.
4. The claim cannot be sustained because of the Board's
critical financial difficulties. It has had to implement a
wide range of economy measures. These measures have insofar
as is possible been aimed at minimising the impact on services
and employment. The Ambulance Service in the main has been
spared the more severe cutbacks which applied to other areas
of the service. The workers concerned are in the process of
receiving a special pay increase of #7.75 p.w. the final phase
of which is due from 1st October, 1990. The repercussive
effects of concession of this claim would be serious. Further
claims would follow from ambulance workers countrywide and
other groups would seek to have their shift allowance
5. The Unions claim was submitted to the Board on 2nd
October, 1989. Under Clause 3.5 of the Agreement on pay in
the Public Service, the claim cannot be processed to finality
until after 31st March, 1991.
Claim 2 - Restoration of cover for short-term overtime:
6. The Board has always employed permanent relief and casual
drivers who provide cover for workers on annual leave and long
term sick leave etc. Short-term cover was often provided on an
overtime basis by the workers concerned. The Union claims that in
recent times short-term absences are now being covered by
temporary staff who are paid on a flat rate basis. This has
resulted in a loss of overtime for the workers concerned. The
Union claims that this is in breach of a local agreement and is
contrary to custom and practice obtaining for many years. The
Union is claiming the re-allotment of short-term overtime to the
drivers concerned. The Board has rejected the claim.
7. 1. Over the years the drivers concerned have covered
short-term overtime as it arose and it has become part and
parcel of their earnings. In November, 1989 the Board
instructed local management not to offer any further overtime
to permanent drivers. There was no discussion with the
workers concerned. The Board simply stated that all relief
cover would be offered to the casual drivers.
2. The Board has treated the drivers concerned in a very
unfair and off-hand manner. The drivers have at all times
shown goodwill and co-operation and have never failed to
respond to the demands which the service has placed on them.
3. The Union has at all times encouraged more employment
where possible; however, the workers concerned cannot be
expected to subsidise this type of employment. They, like
many other groups of workers, have accepted modest wage
increases to facilitate employment. The Board's decision to
reduce their earnings is unfair and totally unacceptable to
4. Short-term overtime cover should be restored forthwith to
the drivers concerned. The cost to the Board is not
significant, however, the loss to the drivers is.
8. 1. The Board has never had an agreement with the Union,
whereby permanent drivers should be allowed to replace one
another on an overtime basis for short-term absences due to
sick leave or other reasons. Casual drivers have always been
employed, when available, to provide cover for absences from
duty of the permanent staff. In late 1988 and early 1989 one
of the casual drivers was not available for ambulance duty,
and during this period the Board may have had to rely more on
the services of permanent drivers due to the non availability
of other casual drivers on the panel. However, casual
employment continued to be used during this period to the
fullest extent possible, and policy on the employment of
casual drivers has not changed. Because of the nature of the
ambulance service there continues to be a substantial amount
of overtime available to the permanent ambulance drivers as
against other grades of staff where overtime working has been
2. Section 7 of the National Productivity Agreement for
ambulance drivers states "co-operation in the utilisation by
the Board of competent relief drivers to provide cover for
annual leave, sick leave and other absences and reduction of
on-call. Where available, a full time driver will have the
option of relief duty at flat rate." As an alternative to
employing casual drivers, the Board considers that it would
have no option but to implement the terms of the Agreement.
However, the permanent drivers have never indicated that they
are prepared to opt for relief duty at flat time rate.
3. The Board continues to be faced with a very serious
economic situation and the deficit in budgetary requirements
for 1990 is #3.5 million. It is imperative that any avoidable
overtime working be eliminated, both from the economic point
of view and in order to provide employment. There is no
agreement on short-term overtime as a standard method of
providing relief cover in the ambulance service and casual
drivers have been employed for many years.
9. The Court having considered the submissions of the parties
finds as follows.
(a) Improvement in shift allowance
The Court does not find grounds for concession of the
Union's claim and accordingly rejects it.
(b) Cover for short-term overtime
Where there is a need for overtime on an unplanned basis
for periods of absence of permanent drivers not exceeding
two days the Board should employ members of the permanent
driver staff to cover such absences in accordance with
the practice which applied during the year to November,
The Court so recommends.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
27th August, 1990. Deputy Chairman