INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
DEPT. OF HEALTH/VOLUNTARY HOSPITALS
(REPRESENTED BY HSEA)
- AND -
IRISH MUNICIPAL, PUBLIC AND CIVIL TRADE UNION
Chairman: Ms Owens
Employer Member: Mr Pierce
Worker Member: Mr Rorke
1. Maintenance of pay links with nursing grades (nurses).
2. The above dispute was referred to the Labour Court from the Labour Relations Commission in accordance with Section 26(1)(a)(b) of the Industrial Relations Act 1990, the Commission having formed the view that no further efforts on its part would resolve the dispute.
In the first instance, the Court wishes to record its displeasure at being put in the position of adjudicating on this dispute whilst a strike is taking place. It is not unreasonable to expect that all parties would abide by agreements and process claims through the agreed procedures prior to embarking on strike action. During the course of the hearing, the Union side indicated that it would convene a meeting of its Executive immediately on receipt of the Court’s recommendation with a view to suspending the strike whilst a ballot takes place. The Court welcomes this proposal and urges that it be implemented in order to minimise the difficulties being encountered by very vulnerable sections of the community.
The Court had extended formal talks with the parties on Monday 28th April, both separately and together. The Court’s recommendation is set out below.
The Court established that the claim arose from an evaluative assessment of the various paramedic and nursing grades (nurses) carried out in 1981. The Union side produced ample evidence to support their historic link with the Nursing grade of Ward Sister. The Independent Tribunal/Labour Court recommendations which found that the Nursing profession had fallen out of line has disturbed this sixteen-year-old relativity. Since the 1981 evaluation, other changes have taken place which have also disturbed these relativities. Whilst understanding the Union’s position, the Court is of the view that the claim for parity as such, in the circumstances now prevailing, is not fully sustainable. In the context of restructuring as envisaged by the Programme for Competitevness and Work (P.C.W.), it seems to the Court that, of necessity, established relativities may change to take account of relative advances/changes in various jobs over time.
The Court has considered carefully the submissions before it, and finds that there are some surprising anomalies between the pay scales of the various disciplines that are included in this claim. Furthermore, the Court was informed that the employer has difficulties in recruiting and retaining personnel in some grades under the present terms. However, in the time available to it the Court could not possibly evaluate relativities and considers that this aspect should be left for specialist consideration, as discussed later in this recommendation.
The Court accepts that there have been changes in the work done by the groups involved, and has taken on board the productivity improvements made and offered by the groups in recommending increases in pay under the outstanding restructuring clauses of the P.C.W. agreement.
The dispute was referred to the Labour Court on the 28th April, 1997, in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. A Labour Court hearing took place on the 28th April, 1997.
3. 1. There is a long standing agreed ranking order and pay relationship between the paramedics and the nurses. Since the pay relationship with the nurses was re-affirmed in 1981, paramedics have effectively been prevented from having existence for pay purposes other than in the context of movement in the pay of nurses. Management has defended this pay linkage with the nurses and resisted any attempt to change it.
2. Many of the grades involved in the present dispute sought a review of their salary scales under the Programme for Economic and Social Progress (P.E.S.P.) and the P.C.W. Progress on claims submitted under the P.E.S.P. was not possible mainly because of the absence of an arbitrator under the conciliation and arbitration (C&A) scheme. The ongoing negotiations with the nurses' pay claim frustrated progress under the P.C.W.
3. The current salary scales of the grades involved, which include social workers, speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, dieticians, orthopists and chiropodists, no longer reflect the duties and responsibilities of the various grades. The role and contribution required by each grade has changed and developed significantly over the years. The requirements for entry to college have been raised, the period of learning and training extended and the level of academic achievement has been considerably enhanced. Each profession now has a high degree of scientific knowledge, expertise and appropriate skills. This is not reflected in the current pay scales.
4. In LCR15450, which dealt with the nurses' pay claim, the Labour Court accepted the general argument that the role and contribution of nurses was seriously undervalued. It follows that the paramedics, who are linked to the nurses, are equally undervalued.
4. 1. The paramedics have not absolute pay parity with the nurses. They have not always received the same pay increases as secured by the nurses. In 1982, a claim for a 5% long-service increment for certain paramedical grades, based on the claim that the relationship between the basic grades and the grade of ward sister had been disturbed, was rejected by the arbitrator. Arbitration report No. 072 found that the relationship which had previously existed was effectively broken. In contrast, the grade of social worker secured a 25% increase (arbitration report No. 147 of 10th December, 1990 refers) on grounds which were totally unrelated to the nurses.
2. Paramedics have received 'special' pay increases as follows:-
6% with effect from 1st July, 1989, 1st April 1990 and 1st October, 1990.
10% with effect from 1st May, 1991, 1st March, 1992 and 1st September, 1992.
1% with effect from 1st April, 1994.
3. The claim must be considered within the context of clause 2(iii) of the P.C.W., which allows for settlement of up to 5% pay increase. The claim, if conceded in full, would cost £14 million annually. Concession of the Union's claim would set a precedent for granting claims above the accepted P.C.W. parameters for groups both in the health service and in the wider public service who have not settled their P.C.W. claims. Any concessions made by Management must have regard to the requirement for flexibility and change, particularly in regards to working hours.
The Court recommends that the pay scales of each group be increased in the following manner:
- The minimum point of each scale to be increased by 5.5%.
- The maximum point of each scale to be increased by 10.5%.
- In addition a Long Service Increment of 2% should be paid to those who are three or more years on the maximum of the scale. This Long Service Increment will apply to the basic entry grade scales only.
- The increases between 5.5% and 10.5% to be added in equal steps to each intermediate point on each scale.
This has the effect of increasing each step on a scale by the basic increase of 5.5%, plus a further fraction of the 5% (10.5%-5.5%) divided over the length of the scale. As example, a person on point 8 of a 10 point scale will receive an increase of 5.5% + 4.0%.( = 5.5% + 8/10 x 5%).
These new recommended scales should be implemented from 1st April 1997.
The Management side (in appendix C attached to their submission) listed items of flexibility and change which they required. The Union for its part stated that substantial agreement had been reached on a range of these non-pay issues, including improvements in efficiency and effectiveness. In the course of the hearing, the Court clarified that the Union agreed to the introduction of Paypath, and in principle to extended cover and to a standard 35 hour week. This latter point requires further negotiation and clarification to take account of the unsuitability of rigid work-hours in certain areas of work. Additionally, the Union was agreeable to the introduction of assistants with the aim of improving the utilisation and effectiveness of the more highly-trained staff, and was cooperating with the introduction of technology.
The Court is satisfied that implementation of the totality of the items listed will achieve payroll savings which will offset the cost of implementing the revised scales recommended.
As referred to in the opening paragraphs, the Court recommends that an Expert Group be set up to examine and report on the changes that have taken place in the relevant professions and in this context to address the anomalies within the group. Whilst the formation of the Expert Group is a matter for agreement by the parties, the Court considers it might be helpful if it outlined its ideas on the make-up and terms of reference.
1. The Groups should be comprised of an Independant Chairperson (to be agreed by the parties) and one representative nominated by each side. With regard to appointment of the Chairperson, the Court suggests that the Labour Relations Commission be consulted.
2. The terms of reference should include such items as problems relating to recruitment and retention, training and education requirements, management structure and development within each profession and development plans for delivery of services.
The Court notes the absence of an agreed mechanism for resolving disputes in the public service areas involved in this case. The absence of such mechanism was partly responsible for the current industrial dispute. The Court notes the commitment of both sides to the establishment of a revised conciliation and arbitration scheme which is endorsed in the penultimate paragraph of Partnership 2000. It is imperative that such a scheme be put in place speedily.
Finally, the Court would refer the parties to the Code of Practice concerning disputes procedure in essential services, and recommends that the parties address this issue as a priority when a new conciliation and arbitration scheme is in place.
The Court considers the above recommendations comprise a reasonable package and urges both parties to accept them so that a very damaging strike can be brought to an early conclusion.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
16th May, 1997______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Ciaran O'Neill, Court Secretary.