INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 20(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1969
(REPRESENTED BY THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT MANAGEMENT SERVICES BOARD)
- AND -
TECHNICAL, ENGINEERING AND ELECTRICAL UNION
Chairman: Mr Flood
Employer Member: Mr McHenry
Worker Member: Ms Ni Mhurchu
2. The dispute concerns a claim on behalf of one worker, a fire-fighter/mechanic with Drogheda Fire Services since 1988, for additional increments on foot of an agreement reached in 1992 arising from which colleagues of his received incremental increases. The Union claims that the increments received by the worker's colleagues were conceded in order to preclude "leapfrogging" by new recruits who received discretionary increments for a variety of reasons. The Union states that the 1992 Agreement was negotiated with another union and, accordingly, this worker was the only employee not to benefit from its provisions. The claim was rejected by the Corporation.
In late 1995, the Union sought to have the matter investigated by the Labour Relations Commission but the Corporation indicated that it believed that there was no basis for negotiation. The Union, subsequently, referred the dispute to the Labour Court, on the 3rd of October, 1996, in accordance with Section 20(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1969. The Court carried out its investigation, commencing with a hearing, in Drogheda, on the 12th of May, 1998, the earliest offered date suitable to both parties. The hearing was adjourned and, subsequently, resumed on the 20th of January, 1999, in order for witness evidence to be heard. In the meantime, a considerable amount of correspondence was received by the Court from both parties.
3. 1. Within the structure of the worker's terms and conditions of employment, the Fire Service could grant additional discretionary payments having regard to various circumstances.
2. The terms of employment with Drogheda Fire Services are similar to those of Dundalk Fire Services and joint negotiations have taken place on conditions at both locations. In 1992, an agreement was reached with SIPTU on behalf of a number of workers in respect of increments being granted to them in order to give them parity with a then recently-appointed colleague. The worker involved in this dispute was not represented at discussions leading to the 1992 Agreement and, accordingly, did not benefit from any additional increment.
3. Colleagues of the worker's did receive incremental credit above him. This was agreed to prevent the leap-frogging by retained fire-fighters of existing full-time fire-fighters.
4. The Corporation's technical argument that it cannot concede the increments is rejected and, accordingly, the provisions of the 1992 Agreement should be applied to the worker in question.
4. 1. In the Corporation the practice has been that incremental credit is granted to newly recruited fire-fighters in respect of previous experience as a fire-fighter or where an employee had previous service in the same or similar grade in any Local Authority. It is not uncommon, therefore, for new recruits to be employed at the minimum of the relevant scale. This would be in line with the policy for similar grades in the Local Authority service generally. The usual practice for such grades is to start at the minimum of their pay scales with the exception that previous service in the same or similar grade in any Local Authority or health board may be recognised on transfer to a similar grade post, for incremental credit purposes.
2. The worker had no previous experience as a fire-fighter and had not worked previously in a Local Authority. He was, in fact, sent on a recruits' training course at Dundalk Fire Station from the 27th of February, 1989 to the 10th of March, 1989 because of his lack of operational fire-fighting experience.
3. The worker was paid an extra duty allowance and Trade Certificate allowance in addition to the basic rate, on recruitment. The latter allowance was paid in respect of his qualifications as a mechanic.
4. The worker is employed as a fireman/mechanic and paid on the fire-fighters wage scale. In the event that he was employed solely as a mechanic and remunerated accordingly, he would still not have a right to incremental credit. The 1977 Central Craftsman's Agreement, with the craft unions, provides for national uniform incremental scales for craft grades and specifies that craftsmen "commencing employment on or after 1 July, 1977 shall enter the appropriate scale at the minimum point."
5. The worker signed a contract of employment, on recruitment, accepting the Corporation's offer and the conditions of employment clearly state that weekly remuneration would be the first point of the fire-fighter's scale at the time. The Corporation would be placed in an intolerable position if the principle was conceded, through this claim, that a rate of pay and written conditions of employment, once offered and accepted could be subsequently rejected.
6. If the claim were to be conceded it could give rise to consequential claims from other staff resulting in significant extra costs for the Corporation and potential repercussions for the wider Local Authority service.
7. The individual cases cited by the Union were examined by the Corporation. No precedent for the granting of incremental credit to the worker was found.
The Court considered all the information supplied at the two hearings and the correspondence supplied subsequent to the first hearing.
Having given the issue careful consideration and, taking into account the precedents on such matters, the Court recommends that the claimant, being the only employee detrimentally affected by the 1992 Agreement, should not be disadvantaged.
The Court, therefore, recommends that the parties meet to agree how this can be achieved and any agreement arrived at should be back-dated to February, 1995. These discussions to be completed within four weeks of the date of issue of this Recommendation. If the parties fail to agree, the Court will make a specific recommendation.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
12th February, 1999______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Michael Keegan, Court Secretary.