INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
ST PATRICK'S RESIDENTIAL SCHOOL
(REPRESENTED BY THE IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
IRISH MUNICIPAL, PUBLIC AND CIVIL TRADE UNION
Chairman: Mr Duffy
Employer Member: Mr Pierce
Worker Member: Ms Ni Mhurchu
1. Pay of care staff.
2. The dispute concerns the pay rate of the care assistants at St. Patrick's Centre for mentally handicapped in Kilkenny. There are approximately 80 workers involved. The claim was initially made in July, 1996 and sought that the care assistants be paid on the same scale as assistant house parents employed by the Health Boards. The care assistants are currently on the same pay scales as Health Board non-nursing grades.
A number of meetings took place at local level but were unsuccessful. The issue was referred to the Labour Relations Commission (LRC) although a conciliation conference did not take place. More discussions at local level followed and it was agreed that a working party be set up to draft a job description for the care assistants. The job description was finalised in October, 1997. Failing agreement between the parties, the dispute was again referred to the Labour Relations Commission and a conciliation conference took place on the 2nd of April, 1998. As no agreement was reached the dispute was referred to the Labour Court on the 23rd of April, 1998, in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. A Labour Court hearing took place on the 10th of July, 1998. At the hearing, the parties discussed whether the issue could be looked at on a national level or on an individual basis but no definite agreement was reached.
3. 1. The role of the care assistants has changed considerably over the past 20 years and this is acknowledged by management. No one has denied that they are doing the same work as the assistant house parents in the Health Boards. In LCR14176, which dealt with care assistants in the John Paul II centre in Galway, the Court found that "a relationship of the workers here concerned with non-nursing staff is inappropriate".
2. The parents of those in care at St. Patrick's School view the care assistants on a par with nursing staff. In a number of other care centres (details supplied to the Court), care assistants perform the same work as those in St. Patrick's school, yet their pay rates are in excess of St. Patrick's.
4. 1. The range and nature of duties performed by the care assistants concerned differs considerably from that of assistant house parents. The present rate of pay for non-nursing groups 1-8 is the maximum rate applying to all care assistants engaged by both Section 65 and directly funded agencies outside of Dublin. Any recommendation for a higher rate in St. Patrick's would have national implications.
2. The claim is barred under the terms of Partnership 2000. The workers concerned have already benefited from a special pay award of £16.04 per week under Programme for Economic and Social Progress (PESP). A claim for an increase in pay for non-nursing groups 1-8 is currently being pursued at national level. A committee to look at the role of care assistants and assistant house parents was set up in 1997, and its submission is to be reviewed by a group of experts in August, 1998. In LCR15880, involving care assistants at An Breacadh Nua - Ard Aoibhinn Centre, Wexford, the Court did not feel justified in issuing a specific findings in the case, but rather that it should be "given urgent consideration at national level".
The Court has carefully considered the written and oral submissions of the parties.
Both parties agree that the work of the claimant grade has changed considerably over time. In consequence of these changes, the Court considers that the current pay scale is now inappropriate to the job of care assistants as carried out at St. Patrick's Residential School, Kilkenny.
It is clear to the Court that a resolution of the current dispute would have national implication. For that reason, it would be in the interests of both parties to seek a solution within a national agreement.
The Court notes that national discussions are taking place which may affect the claimants, and that an expert group is currently reviewing categories of care workers in this field of work. The Court is of the opinion that these initiatives should be used by the parties to resolve the current dispute within a national framework. If the matter has not been progressed satisfactorily in this way, or otherwise resolved nationally by the end of 1998, the Court will make a definitive recommendation in respect of this particular employment.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
20yh July, 1998______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Ciaran O'Neill, Court Secretary.