INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
FORBAIRT (ENTERPRISE IRELAND)
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Mr Duffy
Employer Member: Mr McHenry
Worker Member: Mr O'Neill
1. (1) Pension calculation (2) Permanency.
2. Eolas was established in 1989, and over the following 3 years established 6 other specialised divisions known as Programmes in Advanced Technology (PATs). In 1994, Eolas and the IDA merged to form Forbairt, which became known as Enterprise Ireland in 1998. The PATs staff became Forfas employees. The Union's claim is that 6 workers employed on back-to-back contracts by Forfas and seconded to Enterprise Ireland to carry out duties in the PATs should be made permanent. A second issue involves one of the 6 workers who was Forfas grade 7 but is working at the higher paid grade 6 in the PATs since 1997. The Union is seeking that she be regarded as grade 6 for pension purposes. The Agency's view is that the present qualification, i.e. where permanent staff have been at a higher grade for 5 years will retain the higher grade for pension purposes, is appropriate.
The 6 workers, who all work in the clerical/administrative area, were recruited to the PATs at various stages, from 1989-1997. The Agency's view is that the future of the PATs is uncertain and that permanency for PATs staff could not be sustainable.
The dispute was referred to the Labour Relations Commission and a conciliation conference took place on the 29th of May, 1998. As the parties did not reach agreement, the dispute was referred to the Labour Court on the 2nd of June, 1998, in accordance with Section 26(1), of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. A Labour Court hearing took place on the 8th of September, 1998.
3. 1. All 6 workers have multiple back-to-back contracts with Forfas. They had continuous service with no breaks in employment. Following the establishment of Forfas and Forbairt in 1994, 28 unsanctioned posts from the former Eolas were made permanent. The 6 workers should have been made permanent under the establishment of Enterprise Ireland.
2. The Agency's argument is that the future of the PATs is uncertain. However, a number of reports over the years (details supplied to the Court) justified and strongly recommended the indefinite continuation of the PATs. A Government commissioned White Paper on Science and Technology in 1996 confirmed that the PATs would stay in existence.
3. The 6 workers are long term contract employees of Forfas, some with 10 years' service. Due to their skills they are fully mobile and could be employed in any clerical/administrative post in the 3 Forfas agencies. They are the only 6 clerical/administrative employees so there would be no knock-on effect.
4. 1. It was originally hoped that the PATs would become self-financing. This policy has been revised, and the PATs still require considerable Structural Fund subvention. Because of this, the future of the PATs is uncertain. There are some 140 staff employed on Forfas contracts in the PATs. If the 6 workers concerned were offered permanent contracts, there would be no justification in not offering similar contracts to other staff in the PATs. Given the uncertain future, this is not something the Agency could sustain.
2. The terms and conditions of staff in the PATs are, in general, as good as those elsewhere in the Public Service. Many of the staff in the PATs have a similar status to those staff in permanent, established posts.
3. Staff of the PATs have access to the permanent posts of the Forfas agencies in that they are eligible to compete in all internal competition.
Having regard to the submissions made by the parties, it is clear to the Court that the terms and conditions under which the six claimants are employed are no different in any material respect to those applicable to other employees of the Agency in comparable posts. Furthermore, the Agency accepts that in the circumstances of the claimants, the use of fixed term contracts does not, in reality, diminish their security of tenure relative to other employees.
In these circumstances, there is no justification for applying fixed term contracts to those employees. The Court noted the stated willingness of the Agency to apply open ended contracts. The parties should meet to finalise arrangements in this regard.
The Court so recommends.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
28th September, 1998______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Ciaran O'Neill, Court Secretary.