INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1); INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT; 1990
SOUTH EASTERN HEALTH BOARD
- AND -
Chairman: Mr Duffy
Employer Member: Mr Keogh
Worker Member: Mr Rorke
1. Integration of nurses into ambulance service.
2. The dispute before the Court relates to the requirement for nurses employed in the ambulance service to hold a Class D1 driving licence.
In December, 1993, the Review Group on the ambulance service issued its recommendation on the future of the service. Up to this, nurses employed in the service provided care for the patient being transported to hospital. Under the new structure this role would be taken over in the future by qualified emergency medical technicians. In 1993, the Union had 23 members employed by the Health Board in the ambulance service. These nurses were given three options:
(iii) Remain within the ambulance service, subject to conditions.
The majority of the nurses wished to remain in the service and agreement was reached in December, 1994 setting out three conditions to be met by the nurses concerned. The conditions are as follows:
(i) To undertake training in patient lifting and carry out this function as part of their work routine.
(ii) If the nurses lived in excess of three miles from base, they would be required to live in while on-call.
(iii) To undertake training/refresher courses e.g. Emergency Medical Technician (E.M.T.) course.
The nurses concerned accepted these conditions. The Health Board is now stating that nurses who remain in the ambulance service must have a Class D1 driving licence. This was rejected by the Union.
The issue was the subject of a conciliation conference under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission held on the 28th of July, 1999. As agreement was not reached, the dispute was referred to the Labour Court in accordance with Section 26 (1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. A Labour Court hearing took place on the 5th of October, 1999.
3. 1. The requirement to have a Class D1 driving licence was not part of the December, 1994 Agreement.
2. One of the nurses who opted to remain in the ambulance service cannot even drive a car and is now expected to obtain a Class D1 licence in order to drive an ambulance.
3. It was understood that nurses employed in the ambulance service would be given rostered duties on completion of the E.M.T. course.
4. 1. Through negotiations, the nurses concerned have been advised of the requirement to have a Class D1 licence as per the National Review Group Recommendation.
2. Nurses employed in the ambulance service in other areas have obtained a Class D1 licence or are in the process of doing so.
3. The nurses concerned had the option of redundancy or re-deployment and decided to remain in the ambulance service.
The Court accepts that it is incumbent on the Health Board to provide an Ambulance Service on the terms specified by the Department of Health following the adoption of the outcome of the National Review completed in 1993. This requires the crewing of ambulances by two personnel, each of whom is capable of driving if required. The Court also accepts that the introduction of this arrangement will require staff who have not previously been required to drive, to acquire this skill if they are to continue as part of the service.
In the case of those associated with this claim , it imposes a new and onerous condition which they feel unable to fulfil. As in any situation of work reorganisation, a balance must be found between the need to introduce necessary change and the protection of employees who for understandable reasons are unable to adapt to the changes required of them.
In the present case, the difficulty is compounded by failure of the parties to address this issue in the agreement which they concluded in December, 1994. While the Union and the Health Board were fully aware of the impending introduction of a mandatory driving qualification, this was not specified in the letter setting out the conditions on which the nursing staff concerned could continue as part of the ambulance service.
In the special circumstances of this case, the Court considers that the parties should now make a determined effort to agree an accommodation for those nurses who are unable to acquire the driving skills necessary to meet the requirements of the Department of Health. The Court recommends that the full implementation of the review should be deferred for a period of up to 12 months, during which the nurses concerned would continue to be deployed as heretofore.
In the interim, the parties should negotiate arrangements by which those who do not acquire a Class D1 licence would be re-deployed to suitable positions, on their existing pay and conditions, or provided with realistic severance terms.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
22nd October, 1999.______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Gerardine Buckley, Court Secretary.