INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
EASTERN HEALTH BOARD
(REPRESENTED BY THE HEALTH SERVICE EMPLOYERS' AGENCY)
- AND -
IRISH MUNICIPAL, PUBLIC AND CIVIL TRADE UNION
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Mr Flood
Employer Member: Mr Pierce
Worker Member: Mr Rorke
1. Health and safety, accommodation and staff numbers.
2. The dispute concerns three main issues - health and safety, accommodation, and staff numbers - at the asylum seekers unit in Mount Street. The workers represented by the Union are Community Welfare Officers (CWOs).
The Union's case is that there has been a dramatic increase in the number of asylum seekers in recent years, and that the office in Mount Street can no longer cope. Approximately 3,000 cases are currently being dealt with by the CWOs concerned, and the Union believes that health and safety conditions in Mount Street are insufficient.
At a meeting on the 8th of November, 1999, the Union sought the following:-
(a) safe working conditions,
(b) adequate office accommodation and waiting area,
(c) implementation of the Lynott Report, including additional permanent staff.
Management's response was to offer one third of the ground floor in Oisin House, Pearse Street as additional accommodation, the extension of outreach clinics which meant that all applicants did not have to go to Mount Street, and a confined competition which would result in 10 of the existing temporary CWO posts being made permanent. There would also be an increase in the number of CWO posts from 15 to 25.
The Union's response was that the area offered in Oisin House was still insufficient, many of the outreach clinics were held in unsafe areas, and the offer of 10 permanent posts was not enough. The Union is seeking that the proposed 25 CWO posts, plus 2 superintendent CWO posts be made permanent.
The dispute was referred to the Labour Relations Commission. Conciliation conferences took place on the 23rd, 24th and 25th of November, 1999 at which the Union made the following proposals:-
- 1.That an independent expert be retained to carry out a hazard identification and risk assessment and to make recommendations on implementation of control measures at all locations where community welfare officers work in the Asylum Seekers Service.
2. That a Health and Safety audit on all aspects of working conditions would be conducted jointly by the Eastern Health Board, Health and Safety Co-ordinator and a Union nominee, with verification, if necessary, by the Health and Safety Authority.
3. Based on commitments given, and the instruction issued by the Minister for Justice, a joint Union/Management Group be set up with the involvement of the Office of Public Works to secure an additional, alternative location.
4. Oisin House to be operated on an interim basis for administration and appointments. Satellite/Outreach Clinics to be carried out subject to prior Health and Safety audit.
5. Eastern Health Board Asylum Working Group to be established, chaired by Ms. Maureen Lynott, to
(i) oversee implementation by agreement of the jointly
commissioned Lynott Report and
(ii) examine and facilitate future service needs and
The above to be subject to joint equal membership of all groups and within agreed time limits and review dates.
3. 1. It is vital that health and safety procedures, as outlined in points (1) and (2) of the Union's proposals above, are put in place.
2. The office space in Oisin House is 20ft. X 30ft. and is not adequate, except on an interim basis.
3. The working group proposed in point (5) would be the culmination of a process begun in 1998/99, and it would be wasteful not to complete the process.
4. All posts within the unit should be made permanent. It is unfair that the services provided to asylum seekers should be provided by staff who are unsure of their position. There has been a sustained growth in demand for the service in the last three years and it is unlikely, at present, that there will be any decrease.
4. 1. The Board recognises the need to secure additional suitable accommodation and every effort has been made to secure same. Oisin House was made operational within three weeks of the demand from the Union.
2. Regarding health and safety the Board has initiated the following:-
1. Policy decision to disperse asylum seekers
throughout the country.
2. The involvement of the Office of Public Works in
securing an additional premises immediately and
3. A commitment to additional staffing.
The measures taken have been approved by the Health and Safety Authority.
3. The Board has offered to increase the number of CWOs from 15 to 25 and to make 10 of the post permanent. The number of permanent posts being sought by the Union cannot be sustained.
It is unfortunate that the situation has been allowed to develop to its current crisis level. It is clear that the problems surrounding the Mount Street office are short, medium and long term. The Court, in examining the information presented, is accepting that the long term situation is being addressed in a wider forum and, therefore, the problems to be dealt with by the Court are the short and medium term difficulties.
While there have been many hours of discussions in relation to a range of issues, including lengthy meetings at conciliation, the main issues currently requiring to be addressed appear to centre on additional resources and facilities.
The Court, having considered carefully the detailed oral and written submissions made by the parties, believes that the issue should be tackled using a modified version of the Union's proposals as presented to the management. The Court recommends that:-
1. An independent nominee be appointed to carry out a hazard identification and risk assessment, and to make recommendations on the implementation of control measures at all locations where the community welfare officers work in the asylum seekers service.
2. That a health and safety audit on all aspects of working conditions be conducted jointly by the Eastern Board Health, Health and Safety Co-ordinator and a Union nominee with verification, if necessary, by the Health and Safety Authority.
3. A joint Union/Management group to be set up with the involvement of the Office of Public Works to secure additional alternative locations.
4. Oisin House to be used for both clinic and maintenance work. Management to provide suitable control procedures to ensure a reasonable number of people have access to the building. Both parties indicated at the hearing that they believed they could reach an agreement on this issue.
5. Satellite and outreach clinics to be operated, but health and safety audits to be carried out on each one urgently and any necessary adjustments made. The Union to accept that this may take time and to operate in such areas in the meantime, unless totally unsafe.
6. An Eastern Health Board asylum working group to be established, chaired by an Independent Chairman to; (a) oversee implementation of the agreed elements of the jointly commissioned Lynott Report. The parties to have further discussions on the elements of the Report which are not currently agreed and (b) to examine and facilitate future service needs and development.
The membership of various groups to be agreed, and also reasonable time limits and review dates.
On the issue of posts, the Court is conscious of the projections that the numbers using the Mount Street office will reduce over the next few months, if the proposals being formulated in the wider forum are implemented.
The Court, therefore, having considered all of the information provided, recommends that the management offer of 10 permanent posts be increased to 15 permanent posts.
While these proposals will increase staff resources, it is clear from the discussions in the Court that the actual producing of bodies to fill these posts presents major difficulties. The Court, therefore, recommends that the parties meet immediately to agree a procedure under which a competition can be speedily completed. This may require a once off agreement to meet the urgent needs of this specific situation, without a precedent for recruitment in the future.
Conscious in making these recommendations that there are considerable pressures in the system, and that there can be no immediate solution to all of the problems, the Court would urge both parties to work together towards resolving the short term problems, and to continue discussing and liaising on the medium and longer term difficulties likely to arise.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
9th December, 1999______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Ciaran O'Neill, Court Secretary.