INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
INSTITUID TEANGEOLAIOCHTA EIREANN
DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION AND SCIENCE
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Mr Flood
Employer Member: Mr McHenry
Worker Member: Ms Ni Mhurchu
2. The Institute employs 16 permanent staff and a number of part-time and full-time contract staff. It is funded by the Department of Education and Science and receives additional funding for research projects and consultancy work, mainly on behalf of the European Union. The Union claims that discussions concerning upgradings began in 1987 and, in particular, that claims for promotion were made on behalf of two Senior Research Officers and one Research Professor in 1993 and 1994. Following an independent assessment, the Promotions Board and the Executive Committee recommended that the employees be promoted to Research Professor and Senior Research Professor.
In January, 1997, the Union was informed that the promotions had not yet been sanctioned by the Department of Education and Science. It referred the issue to the Labour Relations Commission and a conciliation conference was held on the 20th of May, 1997. A second conference took place on the 3rd of June, 1998. The claims for promotion were rejected on the grounds that no vacancies existed and that the costs would exceed the terms of the Programme for Competitiveness and Work (PCW). The Union requested referral to the Labour Court in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. The Court investigated the dispute on the 14th of September, 1998.
3. 1. Due to the nature and volume of work being undertaken by the Institute, the Union has sought restructuring and regrading of posts for many years. When the Executive Committee recommended the three officers concerned for promotion in 1994 the issue had already been under discussion for nearly seven years.
2. Although the Department of Education had three members of staff on the Executive Committee which recommended the promotions, the Department rejected the promotions three years later.
3. The Department's recent rejection of the claims for promotion on the grounds of a breach of the PCW is unreasonable as the initial claims predate the PCW. If the Department maintains this argument it will effectively prevent the growth and development necessary to enable the Institute to meet its objectives.
4. The claimants have taken on a vast range of additional work which assessors, the Promotions Board and the Executive Committee recognise as work equivalent to that of Research Professors and a Senior Research Professor. The promotions are well deserved, thoroughly necessary, and well justified in practical and in industrial relations terms.
4. 1. Promotions can only be considered where a suitable post arises and where a vacancy exists. There are no vacancies at Research Professor level at present. There is no Senior Research Professor position within the ITE structure and, therefore, no vacancy exists.
2. The Promotions Board considered the issue of the academic qualifications of the applicants and recommended promotions accordingly. It did not examine the needs of the Institute and if a requirement existed for posts at the higher levels. The results of a recent study, which was completed in January, 1998, are currently being considered by the Institute. Part of the study relates to the future role of the Research Professor in the Institute.
3. In 1995 the Institute understood from a telephone conversation that the Department of Education and Science had forwarded the recommendations for promotion to the Department of Finance with a recommendation for acceptance. However, the Department has no record of such correspondence being issued.
4. The cost of the upgradings would amount to between 14% and 16%. This is clearly in breach of the cost parameters of Clause 2(iii) of the PCW.
The Court considered the written and oral submissions made by the parties.
It is clear that expectations were raised in relation to the proposed promotions of the claimants. It is equally clear that these expectations were not corrected despite the inordinate delay in response on ratification by the Department. However, the reality is that until the recommended promotions have been ratified they remain recommendations and have no official standing.
The Court finds it extraordinary that it took the Department a number of years to arrive at a position on this issue, particularly as a major part of its rebuttal is on the basis that no vacancies exist at Research Professor or Senior Research Professor level. This surely was the position when the case was first made.
It would appear that these employees have been treated in a most indifferent way over many years on this issue, by the Department not responding to correspondence, and when it did respond, changing the arguments against the promotions.
However, the Court accepts that the promotion procedure is that recommendations are subject to ratification by the Department, and, therefore, rejects the Union's claim. The Court would, however, recommend that the proposals for restructuring under consideration at present should clearly identify the need or otherwise for the posts at a higher level.
If such a need is identified steps should be taken by the Department to have the posts filled at an early date.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
28th September, 1998______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Dympna Greene, Court Secretary.