INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
MID-WESTERN HEALTH BOARD
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Mr Flood
Employer Member: Mr McHenry
Worker Member: Mr O'Neill
1. Rate of pay.
2. The dispute concerns a claim on behalf of a former worker in the Hospital of the Assumption, Thurles (now retired) that the boilerman rate of pay should have been applied in his case from 1986 until his retirement in 1996. The Union claims that he performed boilerman duties in the Hospital during that period and, in fact, received the rate for acting boilerman for a period from late 1985. The Board's position is that the then boilerman retired in 1985 and, in line with general policy, a replacement was not recruited, as solid fuel burners were being converted to automated burners, on a phased basis. The boiler in Thurles was converted in 1989 and duties subsequent to automation involved periodic checks being carried out by general workmen. The Board did confirm, however, that the worker received, on an acting basis, the boilerman rate from November, 1985 to June, 1987. The Board's position is, essentially, that, given its policy of conversion to automated boilers, it has not appointed any permanent boilerman since the early 1980s. The matter was the subject of a conciliation conference under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission at which the Board offered to pay the worker the appropriate rate for the period from June, 1987 to conversion in 1989, totalling £620. The offer was rejected by the Union on the grounds that the worker, it claimed, should receive at least the appropriate differential of approximately £8 per week up the date of his retirement. Agreement was not reached and the dispute was referred to the Labour Court on the 7th of January, 1998, in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. The Court carried out its investigation, in Limerick, on the 24th of March, 1998.
3. 1. The Union made representations on behalf of the worker in early 1987 seeking his appointment to the position of boilerman. The understanding of the Union was the then staff relations manager gave a verbal undertaking that the worker would be appointed to the position.
2. The Board has acknowledged the fact that an acting-up allowance of £6.75 in 1986 was paid to the worker and could not explain why the allowance ceased form 1987 to the day of his retirement.
3. The present differential between the attendants' rate and the boilerman rate of pay is £8.29 and would enhance the worker's pensionable remuneration and lump sum payment and the differential would also attract the Sunday premium rate. This was a genuine error and, because of the delay in dealing with an individual case, in what is a comparatively small hospital, it was completely overlooked by the Board.
4. Management has stated that the Board did not appoint anybody to the grade of boilerman after 1990 in accordance with the National Rationalisation Agreement on grades within the Health Boards. The worker should have been appointed in 1987 when the then boilerman retired. The Board's plans to switch to oil central heating was already in the planning stage and, accordingly, the Board dragged its heels on the appointment of the boilerman in the Hospital.
5. In all the relevant correspondence to the worker on his pension entitlements, the Board has always recognised and acknowledged his grade as a boilerman in the Hospital.
6. The Union is not setting any precedent in this case and is fully convinced that no knock-on claims will result as a consequence of the claim.
4. 1. The claimant does not have access to industrial relations machinery as he is not a "worker" as defined in the relevant part of the 1990 Act (details supplied to the Court).
2. Notwithstanding the above, the claimant was employed as an attendant (general workman) during the period of his employment and when he worked in the boilerhouse during the period of his claim, i.e., 1987 to 1996, he carried out the duties of a general workman with boilerhouse duties. He was paid at the appropriate rate of basic pay with shift allowance and premium payment in addition.
The Court considered the written and oral submissions made by the parties.
The Court finds that the issue in dispute was the subject of discussion between the parties while the claimant was in employment with the Company and is, accordingly, properly before it.
The Court is satisfied that the decision to discontinue the post of boilerman was conveyed to the Union in 1986 and, therefore, the claimant was aware in 1987 that he was unlikely to be appointed as a boilerman.
The Court notes that he was acting in the capacity of boilerman from 1987 until 1989 without payment for those duties.
The Court, therefore, recommends that the Mid-Western Health Board pay the claimant the appropriate amount of the allowance for that period in final settlement of this claim.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
1st May, 1998______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Michael Keegan, Court Secretary.