INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
THE LEGAL AID BOARD
- AND -
MANUFACTURING, SCIENCE, FINANCE
Chairman: Mr Flood
Employer Member: Mr Pierce
Worker Member: Mr O'Neill
1. (1) Claim for Assistant Principal higher scale (2) Co-operation with proposed changes.
2. The Legal Aid Board is a state body under the aegis of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. It was set up on an administrative basis by the Minister for Justice in 1979, to provide a civil legal aid and advice service. Currently there are 30 law centres throughout the country.
The centres are staffed by solicitors at grades A, B and C as well as clerical staff. In pay terms, these grades are broadly equivalent to the Civil Service grades of Administrative Officer, Assistant Principal Officer and Principal Officer.
The grading structure was introduced on the basis that some solicitors would have, and would exercise management functions in addition to their legal work as a solicitor. In each law centre, a solicitor at grade B or grade C level is responsible to the Board's Head Office for the day-to-day management of the centre. At present there are 32 grade B posts, 21 in law centres where this is the senior post and 11 in law centres where there is a solicitor grade C post.
The dispute before the Court concerns the Union's claim for the application of the Assistant Principal, higher pay scale in place of the AP standard pay scale to grade B solicitors 'in charge'.
Local level discussions took place at which the Board indicated its willingness to discuss the claim within the parameters of the Programme for Competitiveness and Work and requested the co-operation of the Union in implementing the private practitioners scheme and the extended arrangements for granting legal aid in law centres. The Board argues that in support of its claim submitted in 1995, the Union refused to co-operate with the introduction of previously agreed arrangements for a nation-wide use of private solicitors in certain agreed circumstances.
The matter was referred to the Labour Relations Commission. A conciliation conference took place on the 8th of September, 1997. As agreement could not be reached the dispute was referred to the Labour Court on the 17th of November, 1997 under Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. A Labour Court hearing took place on the 8th of January, 1998.
3. 1. The solicitors in question have sole responsibility in common with Grade Cs for running the law centre. It is essential that the solicitor in charge is familiar with all aspects of legal practice including new legislation.
2. The solicitor in charge must establish procedures for maximising the efficiency of the centre. All centres have had an increase in staff with the appointment of additional solicitors, support staff and apprentices. This has increased responsibility generally.
3. The Union rejects the allegation that its claim constitutes a breach of national agreements. The claim is based on the firm view that the grade B solicitors in charge are incorrectly graded. The Union maintains that the appropriate method of dealing with the differential is the application of the AP higher scale to the solicitors concerned.
4. Outside of the large urban areas there is little prospect of promotion beyond the existing Grade B and given the manner in which the recent expansion of the law centre network has taken place it is unlikely that these prospects will improve.
4. 1. The Board considers that the current pay claim by the Union on behalf of solicitors Grade B is not justified on the basis of the level of management responsibility identified by the Union in support of its claim.
2. The Board believes that both sides must work within the constraints imposed by the PCW. This requires a recognition by the solicitors in question that additions to payroll costs would have to be compatible with the cost parameters of the PCW and that the solicitors must enter into agreements on flexibility and co-operate with change in return for locally negotiated pay increases.
3. The Board wishes to finalise this claim that is outstanding under the local bargaining provisions of the PCW and has at all times sought to deal with this claim with a view to reaching agreement which would meet the aspirations of both sides.
It is the Court's view that this claim would be best dealt with, by having the grading arrangements investigated by an agreed third party working to agreed terms of reference and reporting back to the Court.
The Court therefore recommends that the parties meet to agree such a third party and terms of reference for the exercise.
The third party to report back to the Court, at which stage the Court will make a Recommendation on the substantive issue.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
30th January, 1998______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Fran Brennan, Court Secretary.