INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Ms Owens
Employer Member: Mr Keogh
Worker Member: Mr Walsh
1. Dispute concerning;
1. Incremental payments to contract and permanent employees
2. Allowance for acting Chief Agricultural Officers (CAO's)
2. CLAIM 1
The claim on behalf of 4 employees in the advisory/training areas seeks incremental credit in respect of previous relevant experience and higher qualifications achieved i.e. the attainment of a Masters Degree etc. and also the application of incremental credit to staff who have been employed on a temporary/contract basis.
The claim concerns 6 technical advisory staff who have acted as CAO's over varying periods of time (3 between 1991 and 1995 and 3 in 1996). The Union claims that acting allowances should be paid to these employees in respect of the duties carried out at CAO level.
Management rejected the claims. The dispute was referred to the Labour Relations Commission and conciliation conferences were held on the 1st and 31st October, 1996. Agreement was not possible and the dispute was referred to the Labour Court on the 22nd November, 1996. A Court hearing was held on the 4th February, 1997.
3. 1. The staff scheme provides for incremental credit for advisors who have certain qualifications i.e. 1st Class Honours, Masters or PHD degrees (details supplied to the Court). The 3 claimants satisfy the requirements of the scheme, therefore, the Authority should make the relevant payments.
2. Management's statement that 'serving staff moving directly from one post (temporary or permanent) to another without a break in service can retain existing incremental service' is totally unacceptable to the Union. The setting of a contract period and breaks in service are mainly controlled by the employer. It is entirely possible that a contract temporary worker could have worked a number of years either separately or together, and, prior to a permanent or further contract post being offered Management could break the individual's service thereby denying full credit for service worked to that employee. All service worked should be reckonable for incremental credit.
4. 1. The staff scheme, after 1988, did not apply to new employees in respect of previous experience/higher qualifications. Teagasc has recruited a considerable number of advisory training staff in recent years. Most are employed on temporary specific purpose contracts. Employees recruited on a contract or permanent basis are aware of the position in relation to incremental credit prior to their acceptance of the appointment. Their salaries compare very favourably to those paid elsewhere in the private/public sector to agricultural science graduates.
2. Teagasc does not employ contract staff with a view to making profit. Any increase in salary costs would have an adverse effect on the number of contract staff which the Authority could employ.
3. Staff appointed to a permanent post who previously served on a contract basis, without a break in service, are awarded incremental credit in respect of their contract service with Teagasc and suffer no loss arising from having initially been appointed on a contract basis.
5. 1. The employees concerned have willingly undertaken the extra duties involved in the post of CAO. The post includes various distinct managerial duties which are comprehensively covered in the staff scheme.
2. In 1984, agreement was reached with ACOT and full allowances were paid to workers in similar cases. In 1990, following the establishment of Teagasc, Management refused to pay acting allowances in respect of CAOs. The Labour Court investigated the dispute and recommended that the Union's claim for payment of the acting allowance should be conceded (LCR13674 refers).
3. The claimants have afforded co-operation and goodwill to Teagasc, by agreeing to fill these vacancies. Management has refused to extend the minimum response i.e. to pay them the acting allowance. Had they refused to co-operate, a breakdown in the managerial function would occur, rendering it impossible for the organisation to operate.
6. 1. The employees concerned who carried out CAO duties in 1996 did so for relatively short periods of time. The Court in LCR 14959 recommended that 3 College Principals in Teagasc receive exgratia payments on the basis that they were performing new duties, without financial benefit, for an unreasonably long period. The Court referred to the 'uniqueness of the case'. The workers concerned, appointed for a period in 1996, were clearly not in an acting position for an unreasonably long period.
2. Teagasc acted in good faith in appointing the 3 employees to acting posts but erred in doing so without formal sanction from the Departments.
3. The 3 claimants who carried out acting duties between 1991 and 1995 did so in counties which Management had proposed would no longer continue to exist as separate management units in Teagasc's organisation structure. The Union's objection at the time prevented Management from proceeding with this proposal which would have substantially reduced Teagasc's costs. Eventually the 3 CAO posts were filled in 1995. Having conceded on this issue, Teagasc should not have the substantial additional cost of paying acting allowance to staff in disputed counties.
It would appear that some of the key arguments made at the Court hearing by the Employer had not been the subject of discussion between the parties before this hearing, particularly in response to the Union claim for incremental credits.
Having considered carefully all the issues in the case the Court recommends as follows:
(1)Incremental Credit; -for (A) previous experience (B) higher qualifications (C) retention of existing incremental service on appointment to a permanent post.
The Employer's position on A and B that the Staff Scheme did not apply to staff recruited after 1988 seems to have been new information to the Union side and could according to the Union have major implications.
No evidence was produced to show that this position had ever been conveyed to the Union by the Employer, indeed it was agreed by the Employer that all the claimants apart from one in dispute, would have qualified for credits under the Staff Scheme if it was applied.
In relation to (C) there would appear to be an anomaly in how the existing credits are applied - that those who happen to apply for posts while in service get credit and someone who had years of service broken for a very short period does not get the same treatment. It would seem that a short break, to be defined, should not debar one for service credits.
The Court taking into account the above, recommends that the parties meet to agree a position on A, B, C. Discussions to be completed within one month of the issue of this recommendation. If the parties fail to agree the Court will on request make a recommendation on each issue.
(2)Payment of Allowances for Acting C.A.O.
The Employer's position in the case of 3 of the claimants is that as the relief was only for short periods there should be no payment.
However, the 1984 agreement on payment for Acting appointments makes no reference to a qualification period before payment.
In the case of the other claimants the Employer argues that because the proposed restructuring was not agreed by the Union the individuals should not be paid and that they were told they would not be paid. It was accepted that the individuals had indicated they were doing the relief under protest.
It is the Court's view that no valid grounds exist for not paying the acting allowance in any of the above cases and the Court accordinglyrecommendsthat payment be made.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
3rd March, 1997______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Tom O'Dea, Court Secretary.