INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
SOUTHERN HEALTH BOARD
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Mr Flood
Employer Member: Mr Pierce
Worker Member: Mr Rorke
1. Alleged breach of agreements.
2. The Union's non-nursing branch claims that the Board is in breach of the 1993 Ambulance Review Body Report, an agreement of 1997 brokered by the Labour Relations Commission (LRC) and a further arrangement between the Board and the Irish Nurses' Organisation (INO) and SIPTU nursing branch in the manner in which the Board sought to implement the 1997 nursing deal. The claim relates to all hospitals outside the major urban centres where, historically, ambulances have been staffed by one Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and one nurse.
The 1993 Review recommended that ambulances should be staffed by two EMTs and the 1997 LRC agreement provided that all posts advertised for Ambulance EMTs would provide common terms and conditions of employment. The dispute arises in relation to an accommodation reached in 1997 between the Board and the unions representing nurses who had previously worked on ambulances. Specifically, the Board agreed that such nurses could remain on ambulances as EMTs and hold a nurse's salary on a red-circled basis, all future recruitment to the ambulance service being of EMTs and not nurses.
The non-nursing branch of SIPTU argues that this deal with the nurses contravenes all arrangements agreed for implementation of the 1993 review. The Board rejects this argument.
The dispute was the subject of a conciliation conference under the auspices of the LRC, at which agreement was not reached. The dispute was referred to the Labour Court, on the 8th of July, 1998, in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. The Court carried out its investigation on the 20th of July, 1998.
3. 1. Under the 1993 Review Body Report, it was clear that part-time nurses would be afforded the opportunity of being fully integrated into the structure of the ambulance service as EMTs and, in accordance with the national pay agreement with the Health Service Employers' Agency (HSEA) all new EMTs, from August, 1997, would be on the same rate of pay, terms and conditions which exist nationally (details supplied to the Court).
2. The Board's proposal that the nurses' rate of pay be retained on a red-circle basis is rejected as the Review Body Report specifically states that all ambulances will be staffed by two-person interchangeable crews who will have undertaken the same training and will be on the same rate of pay.
3. The Board is in breach of agreement in respect of the Review Body Report and national pay agreements under the aegis of the LRC. No other health board has adopted the same approach. Elsewhere, those who have come into the service from part-time positions have been employed as EMTs and have been placed on the appropriate rate.
4. There is no dispute with colleagues who work as nurses. However, the Board has created a situation whereby there is conflict between workers where previously there was none.
4. 1. After discussion with Union representatives representing the ambulance nurses, it was agreed that their changed status would not affect their basic pay, but overtime rates would be calculated on the EMT rate of pay. This arrangement, which was offered strictly on the understanding that it would not be used by the Union as a precedent for other workers employed in the health services, is not in contravention of any agreement that exists between SIPTU and the HSEA, regarding the recruitment of staff into the ambulance service after August, 1997.
2. The assimilation of the nurses taking up the option to convert to the ambulance service has not been discussed or specifically referred to in any policy document that has been formulated at national level. This option was a genuine effort to facilitate the assimilation of the nurses into a service in which they had been participating and to which they had made a huge contribution. The proposal had been negotiated with the nursing branches of SIPTU and the INO and the implications of revisiting this arrangement are obvious.
While it would appear that there was acceptance of the nurses being integrated into the Ambulance Service as EMTs, as per the Review Body Report, there is no evidence that there was a position on the rate of pay to apply to the nurses already in the service after the introduction of the new arrangements. It is clear that a common rate of pay would apply to all new entrants from August, 1997.
While the Court understands the tensions that can apply where people doing the same job have different rates, it is not unusual in situations similar to this one for a red-circle arrangement to be applied, at the request of the Union, as part of the transition.
Having considered all the information before it, the Court would find it inappropriate to recommend that this agreement should not be honoured.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
14th August, 1998______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Michael Keegan, Court Secretary.