INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 20(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1969
BROTHERS OF CHARITY
(REPRESENTED BY THE IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
PSYCHIATRIC NURSES' ASSOCIATION OF IRELAND
Chairman: Mr Duffy
Employer Member: Mr Keogh
Worker Member: Mr Rorke
1. Recognition of nursing qualifications.
2. The workers concerned are employed by the Brothers of Charity Services (Southern Services) as assistant houseparents and houseparents. They operate in the community with clients of the service who live in houses in different parts of Cork where the approach is to replicate the model of a family home setting.
The dispute concerns the Union's claim for recognition by the Brothers of Charity of the nursing qualifications of the workers for the purposes of pay and conditions of employment. It argues that to refuse to recognise their qualifications, thus denying them their status and the benefits that this brings is wrong.
The Order rejects the claim. Its position is that the workers are all employed in posts that are not designated nursing posts. Their contracts are in respect of posts, which are either at the level of assistant houseparent or houseparent and are paid the appropriate salary scales as approved by the Department of Health and Children.
The Union referred the matter to the Labour Court on the 20th of May, 1999 under Section 20(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1969 and agreed to be bound by the Court's recommendation. A Labour Court hearing took place in Cork on the 1st of September, 1999. An invitation to attend a conciliation conference at the Labour Relations Commission was declined by the Order.
3. 1. The workers concerned are all qualified registered nurses. They are employed to carry out de-facto nursing roles and functions, yet the Order pays them a lesser salary than that of nurses.
2. There is no recognition of the role of the nurse within the community services either in terms of status or salary, but the Order promotes these services particularly to parents and friends of the mentally handicapped as being nurse driven and nurse led.
3. A campus based nurse employed by the Order in the post of home leader/deputy home leader is paid as a nurse. A community based nurse filling the post of houseparent/assistant houseparent is not.
4. Some of the nurses who are the subject of this claim were recognised and paid as nurses before they transferred from the campus to develop these community services without any understanding that their terms and conditions of employment would substantially differ, considering that they were essentially doing the same job. When this became evident it was raised with the Order approximately four years ago.
5. While the nursing qualifications are not recognised by the Order they are nevertheless utilised when the occasion demands, with benefits to the client and the Order at no additional cost.
6. The standard of care provided by the Order in Cork is excellent. The disingenuousness of the Order in not recognising nurses for the job they do, appalls the Union. In the circumstances the Court is requested to recommend that in situations where qualified nurses are employed that their qualifications are recognised and respected and the policy of insisting that they are part of another grade of support staff ceases.
4. 1. As the workers involved with this dispute are not in nursing posts it is difficult to comprehend why the issue of nurse qualifications is being highlighted. The Order has already indicated nursing scales apply to nursing posts within the services.
2. Concession of the Union's claim would have serious contractual implications apart from the obvious one of significant cost consequences and would open up a national problem within serivces in the field of childcare. If such a principle was established then the Court would be deciding the status of a post merely by reference to qualifications rather than the actual job content of the post.
3. Members of staff in these community posts do exactly the same work regardless of whether they have a nursing or a child qualification. As the group involved represent only those with a nursing qualification, the Court is being asked to agree that they are different and therefore by implication require a different status. These roles are not different and therefore the same terms and conditions apply to them in their respective assistant houseparents and houseparents posts.
4. The Brothers of Charity Services has negotiated with SIPTU and the INO on issues relating to houseparents/assistant houseparents and nursing posts, it cannot unilaterally interfere with such agreements that exist within its service.
5. On the issue of houseparents and assistant houseparents grades, there is a clear distinction in the approach to these groups and those of nursing in the campus in Lota. The first community home was opened in 1973 and since that time the posts of houseparent and assistant houseparent have been available to both nurses and other appropriately qualified careworkers. In a community setting, where service users are generally more able and independent, the accent is on normality and each service user has the support of his or her own General Practitioner to attend to their urgent medical needs. This is not so on campus where service users may be in the more severe ranges of intellectual difficulty, necessitating constant observation support nursing staff.
6. The employees concerned, including those with nursing qualifications, accepted posts on written terms outlined to them, the Brothers of Charity Southern Services have operated a consistent care model and the national houseparents and assistant houseparents scales as approved and sanctioned by the Department of Health apply.
7. The Court is requested to endorse the employer's position in this case and to reject the PNA claim that the qualification of a nursing discipline should be the determination of the scale and conditions to apply to its members in the community services of the Brothers of Charity Southern Services.
The Commission on nursing recommended that the professional status of houseparents in the mentally handicapped service should be reviewed by the services concerned.
In the Court's view the approach proposed by the Commission should be pursued at a national level and it is not appropriate to address these issues in a claim against an individual agency.
For this reason the Court does not recommend concession of the claim.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
21st September, 1999______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Fran Brennan, Court Secretary.