INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
(REPRESENTED BY THE HEALTH SERVICE EMPLOYERS AGENCY)
- AND -
Chairman: Ms Owens
Employer Member: Mr McHenry
Worker Member: Mr Rorke
1. Acting-up allowance for weekends/public holidays.
2. The 1997 Agreement on nurses' pay and conditions specified that chief nursing officers (CNOs) and directors of nursing/matrons would cease working at weekends and on public holidays. The practical implementation was discussed at conciliation conferences under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission in August, 1997. Management proposed to pay an allowance to staff who took charge of hospitals at weekends and on public holidays in Bands 3, 4 and 5 hospitals where there are no assistant matron, assistant director of nursing or designated posts. Further discussions took place at local level and at a conciliation conference on the 14th of November, 1997, at the Labour Relations Commission. The Unions put forward a claim for an acting-up allowance to be paid to any staff nurse or ward sister who carried out the duties of a higher grade nurse either at ward or at hospital level. The Unions proposed that payment should be calculated from the first hour of acting-up, subject to a minimum payment for four hours, at the hourly rate of the maximum of the higher post scale. This claim was rejected by Management and the matter was referred to the Labour Court in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. The Court investigated the dispute on the 15th of January, 1998.
3. 1. Management's proposal to pay £1,100 per annum for acting-up at weekends or on public holidays only is wholly inadequate. Although Management has conceded the principle of acting-up it does not recognise acting-up from the first hour and will not apply it to ward situations although it has, in the past, compared wards to Band 5 hospitals.
2. In the absence of a ward sister, Management requires a designated staff nurse to assume "senior" status and to act-up for the ward sister. It is unreasonable to expect a staff nurse to assume responsibility without payment for same. The amounts being sought would give minimal financial compensation for the extra duties and responsibilities undertaken.
3. Management has insisted that no new or additional assistant matron/director of nursing posts are required in Bands 4 and 5 hospitals yet nurses are required to act-up on a daily basis. In the absence of a more preferable grading, promotional and management structure the Unions' claim is reasonable and cost effective.
4. 1. Management's position is in keeping with both the spirit and the letter of the 1997 Agreement. It has encompassed additional assistant matron posts, consolidation of existing long term acting-up situations and additional nursing hours. The proposed special payment of £1,100 for weekend and public holiday working compares favourably with similar situations in the health service.
2. The Unions' claim for payment of an acting-up allowance in all situations is a new claim which cannot be justified on any basis and particularly in the context of the 1997 Agreement. The repercussive effects of this inflexible, rigid and impractical arrangement would have serious financial and industrial relations consequences throughout the public service.
The Court has examined the submissions from the parties and noted the developments which took place as the claim was processed at local and Labour Relations Commission level. The Court is satisfied that the claim for acting-up at all levels was introduced during this process. It is in fact a new claim and as such, whilst before the Court, is not one that justifies a favourable recommendation.
With regard to the claim for acting-up allowance in the absence, at weekends/public holidays, of matrons and CNOs in certain hospitals arising from the recommendation in the Blue Book and Labour Court Recommendation No. LCR15450 the Court is of the view that the Boards' approach is reasonable. This is set out in their letter of the 23rd of October, 1997, and subsequent discussions. The Court recommends the Unions accept this approach and further accept the allowance offer i.e. annualised allowances of £1,100.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
9th February, 1998______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Dympna Greene, Court Secretary.