INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
IRISH MEDICINES BOARD
(REPRESENTED BY THE HEALTH SERVICE EMPLOYERS AGENCY)
- AND -
IRISH MUNICIPAL, PUBLIC AND CIVIL TRADE UNION
Chairman: Mr Flood
Employer Member: Mr McHenry
Worker Member: Ms Ni Mhurchu
1. Dispute concerning the pay and annual leave of pharmacists and inspectors.
2. The Irish Medicines Board is the 'competent authority 'in respect of licensing of medicines and has national and European responsibilities in this regard. The Irish Medicines Board is required to be self-funding from licensing and other fees. The medical, veterinary and pharmaceutical assessors/inspectors grades have direct responsibility for authorising and regulating medicines and monitoring their safety.
The twelve workers concerned are employed by the Company as pharmaceutical assessors, inspectors and directors Grade 2 and 3. The claim arises because of a difference in interpretation of a pay agreement sanctioned by the Department of Health in December, 1996 in respect of revised salary scales for this group. The sanction makes no reference to either the Programme for Competitiveness and Work (PCW) or future pay linkages. The Union claims that the workers are due an award under the PCW and have an implicit pay linkage with their medical and veterinary colleagues in the Irish Medicines Board who received a payment under the PCW. The claim for six additional days leave was lodged in 1997. This leave was subsequently granted to the veterinary grade in the Irish Medicines Board but has not been conceded to the pharmaceutical assessors/inspectors. The Board rejected the claims stating that the agreement of 1996 in effect absorbed the claim under PCW. It also rejected the annual leave claim. The dispute was referred to the Labour Relations Commission and a conciliation conference
was held on the 10th of September, 1999. No agreement was reached. The dispute was referred to the Labour Court by the Labour Relations Commission on the 23rd of September, 1999. A Court hearing was held on the 16th of November, 1999.
3. 1. The pay relationship on which the current claim is based follows the outcome of an earlier claim lodged in 1991 and concluded in early 1997 which re-established the pharmaceutical rate of pay at 90% of the relevant medical rate. The employer now claims that this outcome was "inclusive of PCW" and without any evidence to support this has refused to deal realistically with the claim.
2. In the letter of sanction issued by the Department of Health on the 17December, 1996 in settlement of the earlier claim there is no mention of "inclusive of PCW" or of Clause 2(iii) nor was there in the negotiations leading to the settlement.
3. The settlement of this claim broke the linkage with the Hospital pharmacist grades yet the employer maintains that no internal link with the medical grades was established. This is in spite of the fact that the claim was for the restoration of the 90% pay relationship with medical staff and the outcome did just that.
4. The workers would not have voted in favour of the offer of January, 1997 in the knowledge that medical staff were shortly going to again open up the pay imbalance that they had fought for so long to redress. The reality of what occurred in 1997 was the discussions and negotiations were finalised in the full knowledge that the medical grades would be moving under the PCW. The reason for not having a definitive commitment in writing to the 90% pay relationship was to do with Departmental reluctance to commit in writing to any more than it had to for fear of knock-on effects. It had nothing to do with a failure or reluctance by any of the parties concerned to acknowledge that there must be scope to track the medical pay developments and this was accepted in good faith by the Union at the time.
5. The Irish Medicines Board pharmacy recruitment grade established by the same agreement in 1997,(not covered by this claim) have already been paid a substantial PCW Clause 2(iii) increase.
6. The pay claim concluded in January, 1997 re-established a pay relationship between pharmaceutical grades and medial staff in the Irish Medicines Board. Specifically the Director of Pharmacy = 90% of the Senior Medical Assessor rate at any time. The pay relationship as detailed should be formalised in order to prevent recurring difficulties everytime there is a pay movement. The same increases should be applied with the same effective dates and assimilation arrangements to pharmaceutical grades as were applied to the medical and veterinary staff in order to preserve the pay linkage. The Union seeks from the Irish Medicines Board sufficient information to enable it to make a comparative judgement on any remuneration proposal, in particular details of the PCW Clause 2(iii)agreement for medical staff,current pay rates and recent pay movements.
7. The Union seeks six additional days annual leave for the workers concerned to bring them back into line with medical/veterinary colleagues whose leave entitlement has recently been increased from 25 to 31 days per annum.
4. 1. While the Union claims that the 1996 agreement was outside and took no account of PCW Clause 2(iii) and that a pay relationship had been established with medical staff under the 1996 agreement it has declined to supply any definitive documentary evidence to support these assertions. Whereas the 1996 agreement in mathematical terms, was based on a calculation of 90% of medical staff salaries, it was not agreed nor documented that a pay relationship should exist with pharmaceutical grades. Relevant correspondence at the time indicates that no agreement was reached. The current Board, in situ at the time of the 1996 agreement, have confirmed that it was their understanding that no permanent relativity was established by that agreement.
2. The Government/ICTU agreement in 1994 provided that with the exception of an agreed list of "past the post" claims all other claims could only be processed as "unfinished business" under Clause 2(iii) A or B of Annex 1 of the PCW. The claim by the Union fell to be dealt with under this Clause.
3. Agreement was reached with the Union in 1996 to a revised staffing structure and enhanced salaries for pharmaceutical/inspectorate grades. Increases of 23% were received by all the senior staff employed in 1996. When one includes the normal PCW awards received during that period the total increases received during the lifetime of PCW are approximately 30%. This is far in excess of what most groups received during PCW.
4. The claim that a permanent relativity was established ,notwithstanding the lack of documentation, is inconsistent with the Irish Medicines Board practice as the only other relativity (since removed) was clearly documented and gives a precedent for documenting such as a relativity i.e. veterinary staff. Furthermore, in the letter from the Department of Health conveying sanction for the new pay structure, the only pay relativity identified is between the entry level Pharmaceutical Assessor/Inspector and Senior Hospital Pharmacist scale.
5. The position of the Irish Medicines Board is that it did not agree to a fixed formal relativity in 1996 and it would not now be in favour of establishing such a relationship.
6. It is illogical for IMPACT to suggest that the 1996 agreement which resulted in increases of up to 32% could have been concluded without reference to PCW and with an acceptance that a further increase would be forthcoming during the lifetime of that agreement.
7. The position is that the 1996 agreement was concluded on the basis that it was inclusive of PCW and precluded any further claims within its lifetime. The Court should note that in accordance with Clause 2(iii) Annex 1 of PCW only one cost-increasing claim may be processed.
8. The Department of Health and Children have confirmed that the 1996 agreement included an element to reflect the PCW increases and that consequently the Irish Medicines Board pharmacists would not pursue a further claim under this heading.
9. The Irish Medicines Board have confirmed to the Union it would consider a claim that (a) could be dealt with under National Pay agreements including Partnership 2000 where there is a rationale to support and justify the claim or (b) situations of demonstrable benefit to the Irish Medicines Board.
10. The current annual leave entitlement of pharmaceutical/inspectorate grades is 25 days per annum is consistent to comparable posts in the Health Services. It is important to note that while all senior staff in the Irish Medicines Board frequently work greater than the standard daily 6.5 hours, the medical assessor staff who are not on the flexi clock system do not get the benefit of extra hours worked and must take annual leave for any absences (other than sick leave) from work. However, the senior pharmaceutical assessors and inspectors have the option of availing of up to 24 days per annum flexi leave in addition to their 25 days holidays.
It is clear from the written and oral submissions made by the parties that there are conflicting views of key aspects of the 1997 agreement.
The Union argues that the 1997 agreement established a pay relationship between the pharmaceutical grades and the medical staff in the Irish Medicines Board. The employers are adamant that a pay relationship was not conceded as part of this deal, that the significant increases given at the time were inclusive of the PCW, and that no documently evidence has been produced by the Union to support its claim that there was a fixed form of relativity agreed.
Examining all the information produced is would appear that at the time that this agreement was arrived at there was great sensitivities as to the packaging of the deal, for a number of reasons internal and external.
It is very likely that the Union perceived that it had achieved a relativity in relation to its colleagues within the Irish Medicine Board and believed that it had an understanding with the Department of Health that the effect of future pay increases due in the PCW for the other employees, would be addressed.
Unfortunately there is no evidence of this being the position, on the contrary there is a strong rebuttal of this from the Department of Health.
The Board’s minutes of Irish Medicines Board would seem to indicate that there was an acceptance of a form of relativity having been agreed as part of this deal, although management outlined to the Court that the Board’s understanding, unanimously held, was that at that time there was no agreement on a fixed relativity.
The Court, faced with directly contradictory positions, is not in a position to decide whether there was an agreement that the claimants had been given a fixed pay relationship, but equally is not in a position to decide that it was made clear that the offer made to the claimants included the PCW payment.
Given this position it would appear that the agreement reached in 1997 did not address the issues raised at the time for a fixed relativity and that this remains to be resolved.
The Court, therefore, recommends that the parties meet to resolve this matter.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
7th December, 1999______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Tom O'Dea, Court Secretary.