INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 20(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1969
EASTERN HEALTH BOARD
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH
(REPRESENTED BY HEALTH SERVICE EMPLOYERS AGENCY)
- AND -
Chairman: Mr Flood
Employer Member: Mr Keogh
Worker Member: Mr Rorke
1. Alleged discrimination RE: 1977 Department Of Health Agreement regarding hospital attendants with SEN qualifications.
2. The worker is claiming alleged discrimination re: 1977 Department of Health Agreement concerning hospital attendants with State Enrolled Nurse (SEN) qualifications. The worker concerned qualified as a SEN in 1982. The "State Enrolled Nurse" is a nursing qualification gained in England, but is not recognised in this country by An Bord Altranais.
The worker claims that she was employed by the Eastern Health Board (EHB) at Bru Caoimhin, on a contract basis for periods from 2 March 1987 to 18 February 1990. Her contract of employment was that of SEN General. She claims that the 1977 Agreement discriminated against her and those who qualified after 1977 in that it applied only to certain SEN's and certain hospitals.
However, the EHB state that they wrote to the worker on the 19th October, 1989 indicating that they no longer recognised the qualifications of SEN and that the job description of SEN General contained in her contract of employment was a clerical error.
The employers state that the 1977 Agreement concluded by Management and the Trade Unions was intended to apply to hospital attendants with SEN qualifications employed by the EHB and St. James' Hospital at that time. Staff covered by the Agreement were employed to perform the full range of duties appropriate to State Enrolled Nurses. Since then, it has been official Department of Health policy to discontinue the employment of
SENs in that capacity in the Irish health service. However, individual agencies, who are employers in their own right, have recruited SENs without the Department of Health's approval.
The worker referred the dispute to the Labour Court under Section 20(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1969 and agreed to be bound by the Court's recommendation. The Court investigated the dispute on the 12th May, 1997.
3. 1. The worker claims that she is being discriminated against by the Department of Health and the Eastern Health Board as her qualifications as an SEN are no longer recognised by them.
2. The 1977 Agreement recognises those who remained in continuous employment with the same employer but discriminates against those who have not.
3. The Eastern Health Board issued a 3 month contract in 1989 to the worker which included the words "SEN (General)" in it.
4. The worker claims that she worked side by side with SENs who had recognition and who received the appropriate rate for the job, with the approval of the Department of Health.
5. The worker has suffered financial loss as a result of non-recognition of her qualifications as an SEN.
4. 1. The Department of Health and the Eastern Health Board contend that the issue complained of is not appropriate to a Labour Court investigation under Section 20(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1969.
2. Employers in the health service cannot be bound to employ staff merely on the basis of the possession of a qualification and neither can an agreement be applied to staff who are not recruited to perform the full range of duties appropriate to staff covered by that agreement.
3. The 3 month contract issued to the worker in 1989 containing the words "SEN (General)" was a clerical error.
4. The qualification complained of is a qualification gained in England, and is not recognised here by An Bord Altranais.
5. Neither the Department of Health nor the Eastern Health Board is an employer of the complainant. As no employer-employee relationship exists, a trade dispute cannot be deemed to exist for the purposes of Section 20(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1969.
It is clear from the responses given by the Eastern Health Board and the Department of Health representatives that the claimant's qualification as an SEN is still recognised by both bodies, contrary to the belief held by the claimant.
The issue of who Employers employ in the Health Services and the qualifications necessary for various posts is clearly laid down. However, SENs are recruited for work defined as SEN work by some Employers, and are paid accordingly.
The Court understands that the SEN qualification is below that of the nurses' qualification in Ireland.
However, the Court notes that discussions are ongoing to put in place a retraining programme to enable SENs to come up to the required standards.
When this is implemented the Court recommends that the claimant participates in order to facilitate her gaining the necessary qualification.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
13th June, 1997______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Larry Wisely, Court Secretary.