INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 20(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1969
ATHLONE URBAN DISTRICT COUNCIL
(REPRESENTED BY THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT STAFF NEGOTIATIONS BOARD)
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
1. Claim on behalf of one worker in relation to payment of Personal Accident Insurance Cover.
2. The dispute concerns a claim on behalf of a worker who had been employed as a part-time fireman for 25 years until he was retired, at the age of 55, on the 1st of February, 1987. On the 10th of December, 1986, 7 weeks before he was retired, the worker had an accident at work which resulted in his disablement. He subsequently received damages of £45,000 arising from a High Court claim against the Council's Employers' Liability policy. The Union claims that the worker was wrongly prematurely retired by the Council and that this was done in order for the Council to evade its responsibilities to him under the agreed Personal Accident Policy. The Union further claims that the amount paid per week to the worker was insufficient and that he should have received payments for 104 weeks instead of 7 weeks. The claims were rejected by the Council.
The Union sought to have the matter investigated by means of a conciliation conference under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission, at which the Council declined to attend. The Union referred the matter to the Labour Court, for investigation and recommendation, on the 4th of December 1995, in accordance with Section 20(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1969. The Court carried out its investigation, in Athlone, on the 25th of September, 1996, the earliest date convenient to all parties.
3. 1. Under the Agreement "Guidelines for Local Authorities on Procedures to be followed by the Administration of the Personal Accident Insurance Cover for Part-time Firemen", it is clear that the benefit payable should be £77 for 104 weeks and not the £50 for 7 weeks that the worker was paid by the Council (details of Agreement supplied to Court).
2. Essentially, the Council failed to update its insurance cover, as per the National Agreement. At the time of the accident it only had cover for up to £50.
3. The Council prematurely and unilaterally retired the worker 7 weeks after his accident, allowing the Council the right to terminate payment of the Personal Accident Cover.
4. There was no question of the High Court settlement including any entitlement which the worker had under his Personal Accident Insurance Cover. The damages received by him were only in respect of his personal injuries.
4. 1. The retirement age of 55 dates back to 1968 when it was arrived at by National Collective Agreement. It has subsequently been enforced by further agreement in 1985 (details supplied to the Court).
2. Between October, 1985 and January, 1987, 6 fire personnel who were over 55 years of age were retired during the transitional period which was necessary to phase in the enforced retiring age of 55. The worker in question was among the 6 and his retirement took place as notified and he accepted the enhanced retirement gratuity. He made no claim to a Rights Commissioner, Labour Court or Employment Appeals Tribunal in respect of the termination of his employment.
3. The objective of the Personal Accident Scheme is to compensate a fire-fighter who is injured, in respect of the time he is unable to work, up to a maximum of 104 weeks. The worker's employment finished 7 weeks after his accident. There is no basis for paying compensation in respect of his inability to work as a fire-fighter beyond that date.
4. At the time of the worker's injury, the National Scheme for Personal Accident Insurance was not in operation at the Council. The amount paid was in accordance with the local scheme (£50 per week for up to 260 weeks). There was no obligation on the Council, at the time, to operate the National Scheme.
5. The worker's £45,000 settlement of his High Court action was an all-inclusive figure covering his claim for special damages and loss of earnings.
The Court considered the written and oral submissions made by the parties. On the substantive claim that the Council "retired the claimant to evade its responsibility under the agreed policy", the Court is satisfied that the decision to retire the claimant was taken before his accident and, therefore, rejects the Union claim.
In relation to the amount paid under the policy to the claimant for the limited period, the Court finds that the Council position was not unreasonable in the circumstances.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
24th October, 1996______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Michael Keegan, Court Secretary.