INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
BLOOD TRANSFUSION SERVICE BOARD
(REPRESENTED BY THE IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Mr Duffy
Employer Member: Mr Keogh
Worker Member: Mr Rorke
1. 1. Retrospection payment for employees operating on-call. 2. The inadequate number of permanent staff in the Cork office
2. The workers concerned are employed by the Blood Transfusion Service Board in Cork. The dispute concerns the Union's claim in respect of retrospection payment for staff operating on-call and the inadequate number of permanent staff in the Cork office. Local level discussions failed to resolve the issues and the dispute was referred to the Labour Relations Commission. A conciliation conference took place but agreement was not reached and the dispute was referred to the Labour Court on the 20th of April, 1999 under Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. A Labour Court hearing took place in Cork on the 1st of September, 1999, the first date suitable to the parties.
3. CLAIM 1: - Retrospection payment for employees operating on-call
The Board provides a Therapeutic Plasma Exchange Service to patients in Cork since the 1980s. While the majority of these procedures can be carried out during normal working hours Monday to Friday, there is a requirement to provide such service outside normal working hours.
In August, 1997, agreement was reached for the payment of an on-call allowance to nursing staff in Cork. The Union is seeking payment of the allowance retrospectively to 1987 on behalf of a staff nurse. It argues that she made herself available over the years to cover the procedures at weekends. The Board rejects the claim. Its position is that prior to 1997, there were no arrangements in place and no obligation on the worker to be available when such procedures were required over the weekend.
4. 1. The worker has made herself available over the past ten years to cover procedures outside normal working hours. The Blood Transfusion Services Board recognised this in its letter of May, 1997, when it stated that it was the responsibility of the staff nurse in question to ensure support for out of hours procedures.
2. Prior to 1997, when patients required the service over the weekend the nursing officer was notified. She alerted the nurse concerned or one of her colleagues to perform the procedure. Frequently the procedure was cancelled when it was expected that it would take place. Nevertheless, the nurse in question was required to be available.
3. The on-call arrangement has clearly existed in Cork for many years. In the circumstances the Union's claim for retrospection is justified.
5. 1. On-call arrangements including on-call payments were only introduced in July, 1997. The Blood Transfusion Services Board accepts that a number of months prior to this (May, 1997), the worker was told that she was responsible for ensuring cover for such procedures. However, prior to May, 1997, there was no arrangement in place and no obligation on her to be available when such procedures were required over a weekend.
2. Employees providing on-call cover, are required to be contactable, available and capable of carrying out the necessary duties for the duration of the on-call requirement. It is these conditions that attract an on-call payment as a result of the limitations they place on an employee. This was not the case in the Blood Transfusion Services Board until the on-call arrangements were introduced in July, 1997.
3. The on-call payment in 1997 was £59.46 per weekend. There is no justification whatsoever for paying this to the worker for years prior to 1997. She was not on-call, and the number of occasions she provided the service out of hours are few, and she has been compensated for working on those occasions already.
4. This is a cost increasing claim precluded by the terms of the National Pay Agreement.
6. CLAIM 2: - The inadequate number of permanent staff in the Cork office
The claim relates to the Union's request to have the employment of a number of long-term temporary staff made permanent. Initially there were 15 long-term temporary staff employed of which 11 have been appointed to permanent positions and 3 have resigned. The issue unresolved concerns a temporary nurse working in Hepatitis C and related programmes. The Union is seeking to have her position made permanent. It argues that she was employed in 1994 on a 3-year contract and since her contract expired in 1997, she has been employed in a temporary capacity. Management rejects the claim. Its position is that these programmes are temporary in nature and funded separately by the Department of Health and Children and that in the circumstances there is no possibility of making her employment permanent.
7. 1. The Board's claim that the worker can not be made permanent because she is attached to the Hepatitis C programme is rejected by the Union. The Union is aware that a number of administration staff attached to the programme in Dublin have been made permanent in the recent past.
2. The worker is covered under the relevant Acts for minimum notice and redundancy payments, but she is losing out on pension, sick pay, and incremental benefits which are enjoyed by permanent staff. After more than 5 years service this is neither fair nor equitable.
8. 1. The Blood Transfusion Services Board has the right to determine the number of permanent positions in the organisation. New permanent positions are only created where the organisation determines that there is a need for such a position and where the Department of Health and Children sanction such a position.
2. The Blood Transfusion Services Board has put in place a fair procedure for filling permanent vacancies. This procedure has resulted in temporary staff being appointed to permanent positions.
3. Initially there were 15 long-term temporary staff. There is now only one person, 11 of the others have been appointed to permanent positions. Therefore, the selection procedures are operating fairly in respect of temporary employees.
4. The holding of a temporary position does not automatically entitle an employee to a permanent position in an organisation. The worker must apply for a permanent position in the same way as all other temporary employees. The system operated by the Blood Transfusion Services Board is fair and reasonable.
Having considered the submissions of the parties the Court recommends as follows:-
The Court recommends that the on-call allowance be applied with effect from the 1st of January, 1996. Furthermore, in recognition of previous co-operation in providing an out of hours service, the claimant should be paid a lump sum of £1,000 in full and final settlement of this claim.
Number of Permanent Staff
The Court recommends that the Board initiate the necessary process to have the claimant's post re-classified as permanent.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
21st September, 1999______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Fran Brennan, Court Secretary.