INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
MID-WESTERN HEALTH BOARD
- AND -
IRISH NURSES' ORGANISATION
Chairman: Ms Jenkinson
Employer Member: Mr Pierce
Worker Member: Mr Rorke
1. Upgrading to Senior Public Health Nurse.
2. The Mid-Western Health Board employs a counselling nurse for people with disability in each of the three community care areas (Clare, Limerick and Tipperary North Riding).
The dispute concerns the INO's claim that the posts in Limerick and Tipperary N.R. be regraded to that of senior public health nurse on the basis that the holder of the post in Clare is graded at that level. The INO argues that, prior to 1997 all three counselling nurses in the region were at senior public health nurse level, and that the duties and responsibilities of a counselling nurse are similar and equal to those of a senior public health nurse.
The Board's position is that these posts were advertised in January, 1997 at the grade of public health nurse and the two claimants applied for and accepted the posts on foot of a competition. It argues that the counselling nurse in Clare obtained the grade of senior public health nurse by competition and the Board allowed her to continue as counselling nurse but at the grade of senior public health nurse.
The matter was the subject of a conciliation conference held under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission. As agreement could not be reached the dispute was referred to the Labour Court on the 30th of June, 1999 under Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. A Labour Court hearing took place in Limerick on the 23rd of November, 1999, the first date suitable to the parties.
3. 1. The duties and responsibilities of the counselling nurse are similar and equal to those of a senior public health nurse. The position of counselling nurse is seen as a progressive post as it has more autonomy and responsibility than the position of public health nurse
2. The Nursing Commission's Report on Nursing and Midwifery recommends that there should be a refocus of the role of public health nurses and seniors in the community and that "the actual role of Senior Public Health Nurses vary from area to area". It also recommends in Section 8.35 that "there should be a clear delegation of management responsibility and decision making in relation to specific geographic areas or specified functional roles to Senior Public Health Nurse". The Counselling nurses have already definite functional roles in managing their area of responsibility.
3. The reporting relationship of the counselling nurses is directly to the Superintendent Public Health Nurse, similar to that of the senior public health nurse.
4. Prior to 1997, the post holders in Limerick and Tipperary N.R. were at the level of senior public health nurse and presently the post holder in Clare is at senior public health nurse level. All three posts have the same responsibilities and job description.
5. The Counselling post(s) are more developed in the Mid-Western Health Board as it was one of the first to introduce the role. The counselling nurse is responsible for the biopsychosocial aspects of this group from birth to death. The Southern Eastern Health Board service covers clients up to 18 years.
6. Counselling nurses employed by the North Western Health Board are at senior public health level.
7. The INO is seeking that fair play and equity apply to the claimants whose counterpart in Clare presently enjoys different terms and conditions of employment for performing similar duties.
HEALTH BOARD'S ARGUMENTS:
4. 1. In a number of cases the holder of a counselling nurse position has sought, upon appointment to senior public health nurse, to remain in her counselling nurse role, and this has been accommodated by the Board.
2. The Health Board was never asked to and did not ever intend to enter into a commitment with the INO or its public health nursing staff that the substantive grade of counselling nurse position be re-graded or advertised at senior public health nurse level. The Health Board also contends that its actions to date should not and cannot be interpreted as such.
3. The only route to permanent senior public health nurse status to date is by open competition for supervisory line management positions. This has always been recognised and practised by both Mid-Western Health Board management and the public health nurses in its employment.
4. The Health Board acknowledges that there may be developments pending in the national context which may influence this case. For example Chapter 6 of the "Report of the Commission on Nursing" deals with professional development issues. It is recommended (6.59) that the proposed National Council of Professional Development in Nursing and Midwifery will agree the guidelines for recognition and establishment of posts of clinical nurse specialist and advanced practitioner.
5. Chapter 8 of the same report deals with nursing in the Community. Recommendations 8.34 and 8.36 inclusive refer to senior public health nurses specifically. These provide a recommended framework for the future development of the senior public health nurse role and the Health Board expects that they will be developed in a national, co-ordinated context.
6. In the circumstances the Mid-Western Health Board respectfully requests the Labour Court to reject the claim for the reasons stated.
The Court has considered carefully the written an oral submissions made by the parties in this dispute.
The Court notes that vacancies forCounselling Nurses for Persons with Disabilities(hereafter referred to as Counselling Nurse) were advertised and applied for in the knowledge that they were graded at Public Health Nurse grade.
The Court is of the view that there are differences between the job specifications of Senior Public Health Nurse and Counselling Nurse, and that the latter role does not require managerial responsibilities. Managerial responsibilities are considered by the Board to be key attributes for the Senior Public Health Nurse grade.
The Union makes the argument that as three previous Counselling Nurses were subsequently graded as Senior Public Health Nurses, so too should these claimants. The Board pointed out that the reason for this was due to the three people involved being retained in their role as Counselling Nurse following their successful application for positions as Senior Public Health Nurses. The Court is satisfied that, while unusual, this was done on a personal-to-holder basis, and does not of itself constitute justification for the claim for regrading of the Counselling Nurse posts.
It was pointed out to the Court that, in addition to the standard qualifications of a Public Health Nurse, the Counselling Nurse must also posses special counselling skills. For this reason, the Court recommends that the work of the Counselling Nurse should be independently evaluated against the role of Public Health Nurse and Senior Public Health Nurse grades, in order to determine how the Counselling Nurse grade should be remunerated.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
15th December, 1999______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Fran Brennan, Court Secretary.