INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 20(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1969
FAS AND 14 NAMED COMMUNITY EMPLOYMENT SCHEMES
- AND -
IRISH MUNICIPAL, PUBLIC AND CIVIL TRADE UNION
Chairman: Mr Duffy
Employer Member: Mr Pierce
Worker Member: Mr Rorke
1. Pay increase for community employment supervisors.
2. The dispute concerns a pay claim by the Union on behalf of community employment supervisors employed by FAS, and 14 named Community Employment Schemes. The Union claims that the supervisors have not received any pay increase since 1994. The recruitment and the engagement of personnel is a matter for the various sponsors concerned. The schemes are grant-aided by FAS with the funds provided by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. Dun Laoghaire V.E.C. is one of the
sponsors of the Community Employment Schemes.
Supervisors are employed by the sponsoring committees to develop the skills and knowledge of those on the scheme, to assist in their personnel development and helping them to obtain employment. Many of those on the scheme come from socially deprived backgrounds and need a wide range of instruction, which is not confined to imparting merely practical skills. While the scheme was to help the long-term unemployed, the role of the supervisor has expanded to include literacy, numeracy, life and social skills which has entailed considerable extra responsibility for the supervisors.
The Union claims that staff employed by FAS and equivalent staff in community workshops are paid substantially more than supervisors employed on community schemes.
FAS states that it is not the employer of the community supervisors. It claims that it provides grant-aid to the sponsors of the various schemes, who in turn employ the supervisors. The sponsors of the 14 named community employment schemes claim that they are restricted by the guidelines on pay set out by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. It states that the claim should be processed by FAS and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.
As no agreement was possible between the parties the dispute was referred to the Labour Court on the 17th December, 1997, in accordance with Section 20(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1969. The Court investigated the dispute on the 26th February, 1998.
3. 1. The workers concerned have not received any increase in pay since 1994 under the various national agreements. Collective bargaining is not available to this group of workers in relation to pay and conditions of service.
2. The community employment supervisors are paid substantially less than their counterparts employed by FAS and equivalent staff employed in community workshops.
3. The Union wants a proper agreed central mechanism put in place to deal with the pay of community employment supervisors.
4. A significant number of supervisors on the community employment schemes have at least ten years' service. Their pay should be linked to a public service grade.
DUN LAOGHAIRE VEC'S ARGUMENTS:
4. 1. Dun Laoghaire VEC sponsors a number of Community Employment Projects. These are self financing projects with funding provided by FAS.
2. The claim on behalf of the supervisors is proper to FAS and the national monitoring committee.
3. Any increase in pay would affect the financial viability of the community employment projects unless extra funding is made available from FAS.
4. Dun Laoghaire VEC considers that this is a national question and not amenable for solution between the Union and the VEC's.
This dispute was referred to the Court against the background of a number of previous referrals concerning the pay of Community Employment (CE) Supervisors. In previous cases, concerning individual employments, the Court took the view that pay could not be determined at that level and recommended that the issues be addressed centrally. In response, efforts have been made by the Unions to initiate some form of national negotiation but these have been largely unsuccessful in putting in place a mechanism to address the problem on an on-going basis.
The core difficulty in progressing this matter stems from the funding arrangements for community employment schemes and consequent uncertainty as to who is ultimately responsible for pay rates. The nature of that difficulty is well illustrated by the stance taken by the employers and FAS, respectively, in response to the current claim. The employers who attended the Court hearing or who commented by letter, broadly supported the Union's claim for a pay review while taking a neutral position on what the appropriate rate should be. They contend, however, that they are incapable of addressing the Union's claim as the pay rate is effectively determined by FAS in deciding the level of funding which it provides for supervision.
For its part, FAS emphatically disclaim any employer-related responsibility towards the workers. Their only role, they say, is to provide grants to sponsoring organisations, including grants towards the cost of supervision. The rate paid to supervisors is a matter to be decided exclusively between them and their employees. FAS further points out that the level of grant aid which it provides is determined by the amount of funding made available to it by Government, which is reviewed periodically in light of budgetary considerations.
The net result is that nobody is prepared to accept responsibility for negotiating with the Union on the appropriate rate of pay, or to make any meaningful response to their claim.
This aspect of the dispute raises serious questions which could have a bearing on the future operation of the C.E. scheme, either in terms of funding arrangements or in the willingness of some organisations to continue as sponsors. They must be definitively clarified between all of the relevant parties. They are not questions which the Court could or should seek to answer.
In previous Recommendations the Court acknowledged that C.E. supervisors are entitled to a rate of pay which is commensurate with their skill and responsibilities. The Court reiterates that view. The workers concerned are also entitled, in common with all other workers, to a fair system of pay determination within the framework of national pay policy. The Court believes that in the present case the best and most effective system would be one of fair comparison.
In its submissions to the Court, the Union argued strongly that its members should be aligned for pay purposes to FAS grade 9/10 or to the Local Authority Clerical Administrative grade 6. However, there is not sufficient information currently before the Court on which it could assess the validity of this contention, nor could it determine what would constitute fair comparison or establish if a single grading would be appropriate to all CE schemes.
The Court therefore recommends as follows;
1. The Unions representing CE supervisors and representatives of CE sponsors should establish a working group, in which FAS and its parent Department should be invited to participate
without any imputation of employer-related responsibility. The Court will nominate a Technical Assessor to work with this working group in establishing a basis of fair comparison for the pay of CE supervisors, having regard to their range of skills, responsibilities and working conditions.
2. FAS should be requested to provide the necessary facilities and funding for this exercise (including the costs of the Technical Assessor).
3. The Technical Assessor will report to the Court which will then issue a further recommendation.
4. As an immediate measure any outstanding increases due under National Agreements should be implemented.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
26th March, 1997______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Larry Wisely, Court Secretary.