INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Ms Jenkinson
Employer Member: Mr Keogh
Worker Member: Mr O'Neill
1. Dispute concerning incremental credit for academic qualifications and the relationship with long service increments.
2. The dispute concerns salary increments which FÁS awards to workers if they attain certain third level qualifications and the question as to whether the practice should be extended to reduce the waiting period for long service increments. FÁS, whose staff have links with the Civil Service for pay purposes, have always given the recognition of academic qualifications by the granting of a number of increments on the pay scale. This is done initially when staff are recruited into the organisation, with the maximum number of four increments available for such purposes. If the worker has not achieved the maximum number of increments on recruitment, the remaining increments can be awarded if the worker has achieved the appropriate academic qualification during service with FÁS as long as they have not reached the top of their incremental scale.
In May, 1997, the parties concluded a restructuring agreement under the terms of Clause 2(iii) of the Programme for Competitiveness and Work. In the case of staff in Grade 8, 9 and 10 the pay agreement was based on the Civil Service Pay Agreement for Executive Officers and Higher Executive Officers. The pay agreement provided for a new 15 point standard scale with the addition of one or two Long Service Increments (LSI) and a new Higher Scale for each of those grades. Included in this pay structure there was an agreement on the initial appointments of a percentage of staff on Grade 8, 9 and 10 and Instructors to the higher grades. The dispute relates to the interpretation of what constitutes the maximum of the standard scales following the restructuring deals.
In April, 1998, an Instructor having obtained the Certificate and Diploma in Training and Education sought incremental advancement for having acquired these qualifications. He was advised that as he was already on the maximum point of the salary scale he could not be awarded further increments for academic qualifications.
The Union at a subsequent meeting with Management claimed that the worker although on the maximum point of the standard scale should get credit for the qualifications by reducing the qualifying time for Long Service Increments. FÁS rejected this claim stating that Long Service Increments are only awarded after three years (LSI 1) or six years (LSI 2) on the maximum point of the standard scale.
The Union also argued that FÁS had allowed academic qualifications to apply to staff on new Higher Scales which apply to 30% / 25% of the same grades, and that it was unfair not to allow them apply for those on the maximum point of the standard scale. While the original claim was in respect of an individual Instructor, the Union made it clear that it saw it as a test case for other staff who were in a similar situation.
The dispute was referred to the a Labour Relations Commission and a conciliation conference was held on the 14th of January, 1999. Agreement was not reached. The dispute was referred to the Labour Court by the Labour Relations Commission on the 27th of January, 1999. A Court hearing was held on the 24th of March, 1999.
3. 1. Paragraph 2.2 and 2.3 of the Pay Element Document of the Agreement clearly states that both the Long Service Increments and the new Higher Scales are both above the "maxima" of the 15th point of the new Standard Scale. Both the Long Service Increments and the Higher Scales have increments as a feature. The Long Service Increments are two 3-year increments and the Higher Scale has four annual increments, above the "maxima" of the new "Standard Scale".
2. Management have decided that they can award incremental increases for academic qualifications for those staff who are on the Higher Scales even though such staff, in Management's view, have achieved a point beyond the maximum point of the Grade 8, 9 and 10 scale. For staff, who have also achieved academic qualifications, but who are on the 15th point of the Standard Scale, or on the 1st Long Service Increment, Management refuse to acknowledge these qualifications by giving similar rewards.
3. The Union asks the Court to recommend that the two Long Service Increments are an implicit part of the Pay Scales for staff who were serving on Grades 8, 9 and 10 on the 16th of May, 1997 and the 1st Long Service Increment for staff promoted after the 1st of June, 1997. Those staff who have achieved appropriate academic qualifications should be accredited with one of the 3-years required service for a Long Service Increment for each qualification. The Union seeks equal treatment for staff on the same pay scale.
4. 1. From the time increments for qualifications were first introduced it has always been policy that a staff member can not benefit from such qualifications if s/he is already on the maximum point of their scale. Likewise, in the case of Instructors who were marking time (two years) at the maximum of the Grade 10 scale before transferring to the Grade 9 scale, qualifications could not be used to substitute for the two years which had to be spent on the maximum.
What the Union is claiming in this case is that qualifications should in effect substitute for all or part of the time which must now be served on the maximum point of the standard scale in order to qualify for Long Service Increments. FÁS cannot agree to this.
2. Long Service Increments are additional steps over and above the maximum point of the standard scale and are only applied after the staff member has served the requisite number of years on the maximum of the scale. In the FÁS pay agreement document the maximum of the new Standard Scales is clearly defined as being the 15th point of the scale. The agreement also clearly states that Long Service Increments will only apply after three years or six years on the maximum of the scale.
The very term Long Service Increment means these increments are time related and, therefore, something else, such as a qualification, cannot be substituted for the time period.
3. The Union has argued that because FÁS has allowed increments for qualifications to apply on the new Higher Scales that they should also be allowed count as service for Long Service Increments. These are two entirely different situations.
The new Higher Scales have a greater number of incremental points than the corresponding standard scales. Staff appointed to the Higher Scales transfer across at their existing salary and then progress by annual increments in the normal way. While these staff may or may not be on the maximum of the standard scale before being appointed, once they transfer to the Higher Scale they are again on an incremental scale. Provided they have not reached the maximum of this scale, they are again eligible to avail of increments for qualifications and FÁS has allowed this with effect from the 1st of July, 1997. This is consistent with the normal long established practice of awarding increments for qualifications.
4. Concession of this claim would have very serious cost implications for the organisation. It would have the effect of advancing a substantial body of staff in Grades 8, 9, 10 and Instructor, to LSI 1 or LSI 2, between one and four years earlier than would otherwise be the case. There are some 1,200 staff in these grades of whom approximately half are Instructors. It is not possible to calculate the cost accurately as Management have no way of knowing the precise number that would be involved but estimated it could be between 300 and 400.
5. Under Clause 2(iii)A of the PCW, FÁS negotiated a Restructuring Agreement which provided very substantial pay benefits for Grade 8, 9, 10 and particularly for Instructors. The pay agreement was implemented in 1997 and was retrospective to the 1st of October, 1994. Very substantial amounts of backmoney were paid out in 1997.
The agreement clearly states that Long Service Increments are paid after three years and six years on the maximum of the scale and FÁS cannot depart from this. The claim by SIPTU would seek to alter this. The awarding of increments for qualifications on the Higher Scales is exactly in line with the long established practice of awarding such increments where a staff member is not on the maximum of their scale and subject to normal criteria.
Concession of this claim would have serious cost implications for FÁS, both immediately, and in the future. It could also have consequential implications for the Civil Service.
The Court considered the arguments of both parties and is of the view that the principle of Long Service Increments has a very clear and distinct meaning, particularly in the public service. In these circumstances, the Court does not concede concession of the Union's claim.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
9th April, 1999______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Tom O'Dea, Court Secretary.