INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 13(9), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1969
(REPRESENTED BY THE IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
(REPRESENTED BY IRISH NURSES' ORGANISATION)
Chairman: Mr McGrath
Employer Member: Mr Keogh
Worker Member: Mr Rorke
1. Appeal against Rights Commissioner's Recommendation No. 752/96.
2. The worker is the night superintendent in Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe. Her primary task is the management of all nursing and other services between 8.00 p.m. and 8.00 a.m.
In the past, the Hospital has operated two roster systems - one of 7 on/7 off and one of 3 on/ 2 off. The worker concerned was on 3 on/2 off. In 1995, management sought to introduce a single roster of 5 on/5 off. Following agreement with the majority of the nursing staff, the new roster was implemented on the 1st January, 1996. The worker let it be known that she wanted to remain on the 3 on/2 off roster. The worker was on sick leave in early 1996. The Hospital claims that the worker was to take early retirement in April, 1996 and was prepared to leave her on 3 on/2 off until that date. When the worker did not retire in April the Hospital was left with no choice but to place her on the 5 on/5 off roster which she is now working under protest.
The worker referred her case to a Rights Commissioner and his recommendation is as follows:-
"I therefore recommend that Portiuncula Hospital should allow the worker to revert to her old night duty roster of 3 on, 2 off, with the situation to be reviewed in autumn 1998 if requested by either party."
The Hospital appealed the recommendation to the Labour Court on the 9th May, 1997, in accordance with Section 13(9) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1969. A Labour Court hearing took place on the 19th August, 1997, in Galway.
3. 1. The worker has been night sister/superintendent in the Hospital for over 26 years. In 1990, at the request of the two night superintendents on duty, management agreed to change their roster to 3 on/2 off from the previous 7 on/7 off. When the roster changed to 5 on/5 off in January, 1996, the worker immediately let it be known that working the new roster would be difficult for her. There is no service-based need for such a change in her case, and no extra cost to the Hospital if she reverts to her 3 on/2 off roster.
2. In early, 1996, when the worker was on sick leave management referred her for an independent medical examination. This was an antagonistic move by management as it suggested that the worker was somehow malingering. The worker's preferred roster of 3 on/2 off allows her to fulfil her duties in a very effective manner. Her work record is without blemish. Management's attempts to impose a new roster on her so soon before her retirement is unfair. When the worker retires, the Hospital can fill the vacancy with any roster it chooses.
4. 1. The worker is one of 240 nursing staff employed at the Hospital. The change of roster to 5 on/5 off was brought about because both nursing staff and management wanted a change. The worker concerned is the only member of the nursing staff to dispute the change. During discussions between the parties, it was agreed that the worker would retire in April, 1996, and on that basis she was allowed to continue with her 3 on/2 off roster. However, the worker changed her mind leaving the Hospital with no choice but to instruct her to work the agreed roster. The worker is not expected to retire until 2002.
2. If the worker is allowed to work 3 on/2 off the Hospital would have to request the other (relief) night superintendent to do the same. If that happened, the Hospital would have to hire another night superintendent at a cost of approximately £20,000 per year. The Hospital does not have such finances. The decision to change to 5 on/5 off was democratically arrived at and one member of staff should not be allowed preferential treatment.
The Court, having considered all of the views expressed by the parties in their oral and written submissions, upholds the recommendation of the Rights Commissioner and rejects the appeal of the employer.
The Court so decides.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
1st September, 1997______________________
Enquiries concerning this Decision should be addressed to Ciaran O'Neill, Court Secretary.