INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH/HEALTH BOARDS
(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. Claim by the Unions on behalf of Family Support Workers, for the application of the Assistant Houseparents' pay scale together with other terms and conditions of employment, and the application of 'officer' status to these workers.
2. The initial claim was submitted on behalf of workers employed by the South Eastern Health Board as Family Support workers. The claim now applies in respect of the workers throughout the Health Boards. The Family Support service provides services to facilitate the maintenance of children in the family home. The key services provided are:(1)home` based intervention as part of the child care service,(2) the need for emergency referrals and(3) a preventative approach. The role of Family Support Workers is similar throughout the Health Boards but there are different rates of pay obtaining in the various regions. Some workers are on the Hospital Attendant rates while others (in the Western Health Board) receive the Assistant Houseparent rate. The Unions claim that the role of these workers is an extremely important one, they have significant responsibilities and duties. The Unions are seeking to establish them within the Social Worker/Child Care grading structure which means establishing an appropriate pay and grading structure and making workers 'officers' of the Board with the related conditions of employment also applying. The Unions' claim was lodged in 1997 and initially meetings were held with individual employers. The Board responded in March, 1998 stating that the issue would be dealt with on a national level and it would, therefore, not be involved in direct discussions on the claim. Subsequently, throughout 1998/1999 the Unions representing workers
throughout the Health Board, and the HSEA on behalf of the employers, held a number of meetings and protracted correspondence was exchanged but no progress was achieved. The dispute was referred to the Labour Relations Commission in February, 1999. Conciliation conferences were held in July and October, 1999. No agreement was reached. The dispute was referred to the Labour Court by the Labour Relations Commission on the 23rd of November, 1999. A Court hearing was held on the 6th of December, 1999.
3. 1. The grade of Family Support Worker has developed at an extraordinary pace over the past number of years. These workers are now crucial members of the child care service in each health board area. The rates of pay and conditions vary from health board to health board. Numerous attempts has been made by the Union to discuss and reach an agreement on pay and conditions.
2. The Union contends that the only sensible way forward is (as per the conciliation conference on the 12th of October, 1999) to have an independent/joint evaluation which would deal with the various issues which are required to be addressed and set a proper grading structure in place for this group of workers nationally.
3. The Union asks the Court to recommend the full implementation of the proposals of the Industrial Relations Officer (20th of October, 1999). The Union also seeks that the evaluation be completed within one month of the date of recommendation.
4. 1. At the Labour Relations Commission meeting in October, 1999, Management presented a draft document entitled "Draft Proposals" (details supplied to the Court). The document fails to answer any of the questions or claims originally submitted on behalf of the claimants. The Industrial Relations Officer put forward proposals (accepted by both parties) for an independent evaluation to be carried out in November, 1999 and, as an interim measure Family Support Workers not currently on the Group 1 rate would be paid a lump sum of £300. Significant efforts were made by the Unions, in November, to establish the review and adhere to the time table set out in the proposals. They were unsuccessful. In mid-November the Unions were informed by the Labour Relations Commission that Management refused to engage in the joint evaluation.
2. The Union has tried all avenues to progress this dispute through procedures and have demonstrated considerable patience and forbearance. All attempts to use the established industrial relations machinery have failed as Management has refused to address the claim. The workers are a dedicated and committed group. They are very angry and frustrated at the continued failure of the Board to address the claims, and a disruption of services is a possiblity because of Management's inaction.
3. The Union asks the Court to recommend that an independent evaluation be carried out as per the Labour Relations Commission's proposals of the 20th of October, 1999 and an exact time frame be indicated. The Union suggests that it can be carried out within four weeks. At this stage, following a report on the evaluation the Union requests that the Court would re-convene to hear the elements of the claim, the arguments of both sides, and issue a definitive recommendation.
5. 1. Since the introduction of the Family Support Worker grade it has been included as part of the non-nursing/support grades. In common with these grades no essential qualifications are required.
2. The rate of pay applied to the Family Support Worker in two of the Health Boards (MHB and NEHB) is that of Group 1 non-nursing (with a comparable offer secured in a third Board (EHB) by IMPACT in 1997.
3. Where the Group 1 rate applies it has attracted all National pay round increases including special increases, the most recent being the non-nursing (analogue) agreement.
4. It clearly states in Partnership 2000 that "it is agreed that no cost increasing claims by trade unions or employees for improvements in pay and conditions of employment ... will be made or processed during the currency of the agreement." In addition to the above the 1998 non-nursing (analogue) agreement states that "it is agreed that there will be a moratorium on any further new claims for the duration of this agreement." In the above context the employer is satisfied that these staff in particular have received their entitlement under PCW and Partnership 2000.
5. Should the Family Support Workers be granted the pay and conditions of the Assistant Houseparent it will almost certainly generate a significant expectation among the remaining non-nursing grades and their representatives.
6. Should the Court recommend in favour of the Unions' claims it will have a negative effect on the work of the non-nursing partnership committee which was specifically established to examine the overall role/responsibilities of all non-nursing grades.
7. The Family Support Worker has to date been included in the non-nursing grades and it is the view of the employers that this is the appropriate category. The grade of Family Support worker does not require any formal or professional qualification as is consistent with other non-nursing grades.
8. The employers are requesting that the Court reject the claim from the Unions that Family Support workers be remunerated at Assistant Houseparent rate and also the claim seeking to grant' officer 'status.
The Court is concerned at the length of time taken to bring this claim to this stage. While noting Management arguments that the delay was due to other groups having a similar claim, the Court believes the time delay was excessive.
Having considered all the information supplied the Court recommends that both parties accept the Labour Relations Commission's proposal of the 20th of October, 1999 as the means of resolving this dispute.
The evaluation to be completed within eight weeks of the date of this recommendation.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
14th December, 1999______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Tom O'Dea, Court Secretary.