INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
LEGAL AID BOARD
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Mr Duffy
Employer Member: Mr Pierce
Worker Member: Mr O'Neill
1. Increase in pay.
2. The Legal Aid Board is a state body which was set up in 1979 to provide a civil legal aid and advice service. It currently employs 40 Grade A solicitors, 32 Grade B solicitors and 9 Grade C solicitors. In November, 1996, the Union submitted a claim on behalf of the Grade A solicitors for the implementation of the Civil Service HEO/EO restructuring deal. Following local discussions, and having received sanction from the Department of Finance, the Board offered to meet the Union's claim in full. The offer was then rejected by the employees following a secret ballot. Further local discussions failed to resolve the issue and the parties agreed to refer the matter to the Labour Relations Commission. A conciliation conference was held on the 9th of January, 1998. As agreement could not be reached at conciliation the dispute 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 24th of February, 1998.
3. 1. There is no difference between the work carried out by Grade A and Grade B solicitors. Both are expected to take full professional responsibility for their cases through all legal procedures. Grade A solicitors have discretion to retain the services of senior and junior counsel. They work without supervision and in opposition to their colleague grades.
2. The grade of Assistant Solicitor in both the Chief State Solicitor's Office and in Dublin Corporation is remunerated at a similar or higher rate than that of Grade A. However, Assistant Solicitors work under the supervision of a Senior Solicitor and have no discretion to commence proceedings, to retain counsel or to settle proceedings.
3. Grade A solicitors are entitled to 21 days annual leave while Grade Bs receive 29 days. The difference in annual leave entitlement is wholly inappropriate given the very high stress levels attached to the work. The current grading structure and conditions of employment for Grade A solicitors are inadequate and should be reviewed.
4. 1. Grade A, which is directly related to the entry level post of Assistant Solicitor in the Chief State Solicitor's Office, is the usual entry level for fully qualified solicitors. Both have the same level of professional responsibility. Grade A solicitors have no management responsibilities unlike Grade B and C solicitors. Grade B also provides a promotional outlet for Grade A solicitors.
2. Although the starting pay in Dublin Corporation is higher, solicitors are required to have at least two years' experience. In addition there is only one post in Dublin Corporation at Assistant Solicitor level with no promotion available at present. Throughout the Civil and Public Service annual leave is related to pay levels. Each grade receives the amount of annual leave appropriate to its pay scale. The Board has already met the Union's original claim in full and sees no justification for a higher pay increase.
It seems clear to the Court that the real obstacle to concluding an agreement under Clause 2(iii) (a) of PCW is the Union's perception that the grading structure of its members is inappropriate to their duties and responsibilities. On the information currently available the Court is not in a position to make a definitive recommendation on this aspect of the dispute.
In order to break the present impasse the Court recommends as follows:
1. The appropriateness of the Board's grading structure, relative to other comparable employments in the public sector, should be examined by an agreed third party working to agreed terms of reference and reporting back to the Court. The parties should agree such a third party and the terms of reference for the exercise. When this report is received the Court will make a recommendation on the substantive issue.
2. On the basis of the modification at 1 above, and without prejudice to any consequential recommendation by the Court, the Union should now accept the Board's final pay offer.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
18th March, 1998______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Dympna Greene, Court Secretary.