INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
EASTERN HEALTH BOARD
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Mr Duffy
Employer Member: Mr McHenry
Worker Member: Ms Ni Mhurchu
1. Compensation claim due to removal of minibus driver from roster.
2. The claim is on behalf of 6 ambulance emergency medical technicians (EMTs), at Athy ambulance base, for compensation arising from the Board's proposal to remove the minibus service. At present, every 6th week of the roster, an EMT drives a minibus to Dublin and receives a subsistence payment of £20.74 and regular overtime payments. The Union claims that the removal of the minibus will result in the loss of one driving job, with knock-on loss in earnings for the remaining 5 drivers, who also have to work 3 weekends in 5 as opposed to 3 in 6 and will have to take on additional night work. The Union is claiming compensation in line with a settlement reached in respect of the Waterford ambulance service, whereby compensation was paid to drivers arising from loss of overtime earnings. The Board's position is that minibus-driving is not an appropriate duty for the EMTs. On the matter of compensation for loss of earnings, the Board indicated that it would pay compensation if it were to be shown that the drivers were at a loss, following "before and after" comparisons.
The dispute was the subject of a conciliation conference under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission, at which agreement was not reached. The dispute was referred to the Labour Court, on the 30th of June, 1999, in accordance with Section 26 (1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. The Court carried out its investigation, in Carlow, on the 24th of November, 1999, the earliest date convenient to both parties.
3. 1. The Union is opposed to the removal of a minibus post from the duties of the ambulance staff at Athy. However, should it happen, the Board would have to pay the remaining EMTs a substantial compensation package (details supplied to the Court).
2. Despite the Board's arguments that trained personnel are over-qualified for deployment on the minibus, the Union and the claimants believe that a person with medical training must be used to transfer ill patients (details supplied).
3. All other bases in the locality, i.e., Naas, Maynooth and Baltinglass, have taken on more workers. It is unacceptable that there should be a decrease in staff at Athy given the expansion of the population in the area.
4. Comparisons with the circumstances in the Waterford ambulance service, where compensation was paid to drivers in respect of loss of earnings, are valid and a similar settlement should apply in this case.
4. 1. Following ongoing evaluation and a recent review, it is clear the current minibus service is neither cost-effective, efficient nor economic, and the Board is exploring a range of options in order to improve the service.
2. The proposed change is covered by the productivity/flexibility measures agreed between the Board and the Union under the national provincial PCW agreement (details supplied to the Court).
3. The Board recognises that the remaining drivers may be required to work an extra 5 weekends per year. However, 5 of their colleagues have operated that roster without complaint. Also staff working Saturdays and Sundays receive additional premium payments.
4. The comparison with the South Eastern Health Board (Waterford) case is rejected on the grounds that very substantial changes to work practices were involved there and the SEHB achieved major productivity gains.
5. As part of the anticipated loss cited by the Union, it has included daily subsistence payments. Such payments have never been classed as income, but reflect the costs to employees away from base. In addition, such payments are paid to EMTs on ambulance runs and so the loss may not be as great as anticipated.
6. Regular overtime payments which apply in respect of the minibus run may also be payable on the ambulance shifts.
7. The Board is committed to examining the actual loss of earnings over an agreed period and would be prepared to agree a mechanism for payment of compensation, if any loss should be incurred.
Having considered the submissions of the parties, the Court recommends as follows in relation to the Union's compensation claims:
1. The Eastern Health Board has accepted that compensation would be paid in respect of loss of earnings actually incurred in consequence of the introduction of the new roster arrangements.
2. As no detailed negotiations have taken place between the parties on how compensation might be assessed or on defining loss of earnings, it is not appropriate for the Court to make a definitive recommendation on those issues at this time.
The Court does recommend that the parties enter into immediate negotiations with a view to reaching agreement on those issues. In these negotiations, account should be taken of regular overtime and regular allowances (other than allowances in respect of expenses actually incurred) which will cease or diminish as a result of the new arrangements.
3. The projected annual loss should be assessed over a three month period commencing with the introduction of the new roster, that period could be extended by agreement.
At the end of this period, compensation, as agreed under 2 above, should be paid.
4. On this basis, the new rosters should be put into effect immediately, and a payment on account of £500 should be paid to each employee associated with this claim. This amount should be off-set against the figure finally payable.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
6th December, 1999.______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Michael Keegan, Court Secretary.