INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
EASTERN HEALTH BOARD
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Mr Flood
Employer Member: Mr Pierce
Worker Member: Mr Rorke
1. Regrading/payment of allowance.
2. The workers concerned are employed as porters by the Eastern Health Board at its Homeless Persons Unit, located in the Charles Street Health Centre, Dublin 1. The dispute concerns the Union's claim on behalf of three porters for regrading to general assistants. It claims that the porter's role is more akin to the duties carried out by general assistants employed in the Drugs/Aids Programme than porters employed in Health Centres throughout the Eastern Health Board. The Board rejects the claim on the basis that general assistants have a different role and level of responsibility and, therefore, regrading is not appropriate for this group of staff.
Local level discussions failed to resolve the issue and the matter was referred to the Labour Relations Commission. Two conciliation conferences took place at which management indicated its willingness to extend the keyholders allowance of £15 per week, currently held by one porter to the other two. As agreement could not be reached on the regrading issue, the dispute was referred to the Labour Court on the 2nd of December, 1998 under Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. A Labour Court hearing took place on the 13th of January, 1999.
3. 1. The porters have a level of responsibility and discretion unknown to this grade throughout the Eastern Health Board. They carry out an initial screening process of clients to ascertain if the services offered are appropriate. Other duties include the collection of documents and distribution of cheques, crowd control, requesting and relaying information to clients.
2. General assistants are required to act in support of their colleagues in threatening or difficult situations. The role of the workers concerned is similar to the duties carried out by general assistants employed in the Drugs/Aids Programme.
3. Some of the public who attend the Homeless Centre are chronic drug users and known for their anti-social behaviour. All three porters have been subjected to violent attacks.
4. The porters work under conditions of severe stress due to the risk of syringe attacks.
5. The porters carry out a difficult and dangerous job in an essential service. Their dedication and ability is not recognised in a meaningful way by the Eastern Health Board. The Union is seeking that the Court recommends regrading to general assistants or recommend a significant increase in remuneration back dated to February, 1998.
4. 1. The job description carried out is in line with other portering staff in health centres throughout the Eastern Health Board.
2. General Assistants are employed in the Drugs/Aids Programme only. They are required to carry out a different range of duties and are, therefore, remunerated to reflect that fact.
3. Payments under the Programme for Competitiveness and Work have already been made for this grade and no mechanism exists to facilitate any further cost increasing claims.
4. Payment of any additional monies outside the PCW/Partnership 2000 would have national implications both for the Eastern Health Board, where a number of specialist health centres exist e.g. Traveller Unit, Asylum Seeker Unit, and indeed for other Health Boards where difficult client populations are dealt with.
5. Payment of any additional allowance for porters in Charles Street would also have implications for the other staff members located in this centre.
6. The Board has been reasonable in addressing the concerns expressed by this group and have re-examined their role resulting in the key holding allowance being paid.
The Court having considered all the information supplied recommends that this claim be dealt with within the proposed partnership committees as a matter of urgency when they are agreed.
Any award made should take account of the fact that the claim has been lodged since February, 1998. In the meantime the Health Board should do everything possible to improve the working environment of these employees.
The Board has accepted that the key money agreed should have been paid and will be paid immediately.
The Court notes that it was also accepted that these employees have worked overtime in the past that has not been paid. This should be addressed by the parties.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
29th January, 1999______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Fran Brennan, Court Secretary.