INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
SOUTHERN HEALTH BOARD
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Mr Duffy
Employer Member: Mr McHenry
Worker Member: Ms Ni Mhurchu
1. Weekend working roster.
2. The dispute concerns one worker, a permanent staff nurse, who has been in the Board's employment for approximately 30 years.
In 1980, she switched from hospital work in the Youghal Community District Hospital to ambulance work as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). This service operated in the past on the basis of a two-person non-interchangeable crew, i.e., a non-medical driver and an EMT. Following the outcome of a collective agreement in 1997, management changed the crewing of the ambulance service to a two-person interchangeable crew. This agreement, which was to take effect on a transitional basis commencing January, 1998, offered nurses three options on the introduction of the two-person interchangeable crew, as follows:-
(1) Conversion to EMT status and remaining within the system. This would
entail the acquisition of a full D1 driving licence and preparedness to drive
(2) Alternative employment/redeployment in District Hospitals;
(3) A voluntary redundancy package.
The worker involved in this dispute chose the second option and the Board offered her redeployment within the Community District Hospital in Youghal. (Until about 1985, the weekend roster in that hospital was on a weekend on / weekend off basis but this arrangement was changed, with the Union's agreement, to the current roster of every third weekend off. However, the change did not affect nurses attached to the ambulance service).
The Board notified the worker of her redeployment arrangements, to take effect from the 8th of July, 1999. The Union, on behalf of the worker, is seeking that the roster applying to her in the ambulance service be carried by her to her post in the Community Hospital. The Union argues that of the 34 nurses in the worker's position, her situation is unique in that she is the only permanent nurse and, prior to her transfer to ambulance work in 1980, she had worked an alternate weekend roster in Youghal District Hospital, an arrangement which continued in the ambulance service.
The Board's position is that the collective agreement covers all of the nurses and the worker's permanent status does not qualify her for special treatment. The Board claims that to facilitate her with a different weekend roster would cause roster problems that it could not reasonably manage.
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 July, 1999, in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. The Court carried out its investigation, in Cork, on the 25th of November, 1999, the earliest date convenient to both parties.
3. 1. The worker is in a unique situation as she was the only permanent nurse on the ambulance service with the Board, all other nurses being temporary and who, if they opted for redeployment were immediately made permanent. Several meetings took place between the Union and management concerning the worker's situation. The Union requested, in writing, that her position should not change until a final solution on compensation for loss of earnings due to her opting for redeployment, was reached.
2. On the 10th of April, 1999, the Board objected to an option which the Union had suggested in an effort to resolve the dispute, i.e., that the worker would be appointed to permanent night duty which would deal with the loss of earnings issue and the rostering issue as the night duty roster is every second weekend. However, the Board stated that the roster that exists in Youghal Community Hospital had been negotiated in February, 1986, and modified three years later and that the worker was not involved in drawing up that agreement as she was seen by all parties at the time as the ambulance nurse who had her own weekend roster.
3. The worker has been caused a great deal of stress because of the protracted nature of this problem. A serious loss of earnings has been suffered by her as a result of her redeployment. While conceding that the Board put her on night duty while another nurse was on maternity leave which maintained her earnings to a certain extent, she is now on day duty although there is still night duty available.
4. 1. The Union is contending that the worker should carry the roster that is currently applying to her situation in the ambulance service into the Community Hospital. This means that she would be rostered on for duty every second Sunday.
However, the current roster in operation in the Community Hospital is a commitment to work two Sundays in every three. For the Board to accept the Union's contention, it would have serious implications for others working in the hospital, in that the roster would have to be altered to reflect one person, only, working every second Sunday. While this is not very practical, it is not acceptable to the staff operating the current roster and who are also members of this Union. It would also have resource implications for the Board.
2. The Board operates the principle that if an employee transfers into a new location that the roster there is the roster that applies. If the roster is to be changed, the majority decision applies. Following local discussions, a further option has been extended to the worker, i.e., to avail herself of the voluntary redundancy package. In addition to a lump sum and pension, she would be offered temporary employment in another local hospital where a 1 in 2 roster applies. If she avails of this option on a part-time basis, she will not have her pension reduced and will have the potential to earn a full-time salary per year.
In its submission to the Court, the Board indicated that one of the options available to the claimant is to avail of a voluntary redundancy package which includes a lump sum and a pension, In addition, the Board would offer part-time employment to the claimant which, when combined with her pension, would be sufficient to enable her earn the equivalent of her full-time salary.
The Board's position in regard to that offer was repeated to the Court in the course of the hearing. This offer corresponds to one of the proposals put forward by the Union to resolve the dispute in earlier discussions.
In these circumstances, the Court recommends that the claimant be offered voluntary redundancy on the terms available and that, in addition, the offer made by the Board at the Court to provide part-time employment, in another local hospital, where a 1 in 2 roster applies, be implemented. The part-time hours provided should be sufficient, when combined with the pension payable, to maintain the claimant's income at the equivalent of her full time salary.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
14th December, 1999______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Michael Keegan, Court Secretary.