INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
NORTHERN AREA HEALTH BOARD (ST ITA'S HOSPITAL)
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Ms Jenkinson
Employer Member: Mr Keogh
Worker Member: Mr. Somers
1. Claim by the Union on behalf of 36 workers for compensation in respect of working in a temporary kitchen facility.
2. The Union's claim arises as part of a wider range of issues in dispute including uniform provision , hours of attendance, leave, cover in the admission area , security and refurbishment of the Front Hall etc., raised in a letter to Management in May, 2000 The Union indicated that it proposed to take industrial action because of Management's failure to address these issues. A one day strike took place on the 8th June, 2000. The dispute was referred to the Labour Relations Commission and a conciliation conference was held on the 14th June, 2000. The Industrial Relations Officer issued a set of proposals for consideration by both parties which included a commitment from Management to review the Kitchen area as and from the 3rd July, 2000, with the Union to prepare a list of complaints to Management. The old kitchens in St Ita's were closed and new temporary kitchen facilities were installed in the grounds of the hospital. The working conditions in the temporary kitchen gave rise to the dispute. On the 19th June ,2000 the Union outlined workers' concerns relating to conditions obtaining in the temporary kitchen facility. A second conciliation conference was held in July, 2000 to deal specifically with the kitchen arrangements at which Management offered an additional three days annual leave to staff on a non- replacement basis. The Union rejected the offer and is seeking monetary compensation. The dispute was referred to the Labour Court by the Labour Relations Commission on the 25th October, 2000. A Court hearing was held on the 23rd November, 2000.
3. 1. Although the closure of the old kitchen was welcome, due to its shocking condition, the use of the temporary kitchen has brought its own major problems with the employees concerned working in extremely difficult conditions. (Details supplied to the Court)
2. When the Union met Management in March, 2000 to discuss the use of the temporary kitchen, the Union was assured that within six to nine months, either a completely new kitchen would be built or the existing kitchen would be totally revamped to the highest standards. To date, work has not even begun on either option and the Union has not been informed definitely which option has been decided.
3 Some conditions of employment have disimproved since the move to the temporary facility, and the workload for all staff in the temporary facility has increased significantly.
4. The Union is seeking to have the working conditions of all staff in the Catering Area improved dramatically as a matter of urgency. There must be a definite timescale for a new kitchen to be commissioned. Staff should receive monetary compensation for the changes to work practices, working conditions, rosters and breaks. The Union is seeking retrospection to any award made in respect of the move to the temporary kitchen facility, and compensation should be ongoing until a new permanent kitchen facility is up and running.
4. 1. The temporary kitchen facilities are fully equipped with modern food preparation technology. The ergonomically designed purpose built unit is an overall improvement on previous working conditions in the main kitchen.
2. In response to staff concerns about the lack of space, Management has arranged the installation of an extra cooking and ventilation unit.
3. To reduce the amount of food preparation required, Management has bought in prepared foods, to ease staff concerns in this area. The new arrangements have resulted in a reduction in workloads in some areas. (Details supplied to the Court)
4. The temporary kitchen facilities are located approximately 50 yards down a refurbished corridor from the main kitchen.
5. There is no loss of earnings to any individual or group of staff as a result of the revised arrangements.
6. Catering Management in the hospital has addressed the majority of staff concerns as they have become known. Management is committed to provide working conditions as amenable as possible and will continue to respond to staff concerns.
7. Management has acknowledged the co-operation and flexibility of staff in ensuring the success of the temporary kitchen arrangements. Payment to staff of the nature claimed by SIPTU is not merited in this case and concession of a monetary award would set a precedent in the Board. There is constant refurbishment of premises and relocation of staff throughout the 300 plus premises in the eastern region, for which the Board does not pay compensation payments to staff.
The Court has taken into consideration all aspects of this claim. The unsatisfactory working conditions associated with working in the new temporary kitchen are causing many problems for staff. The Court is of the view that these problems need to be addressed without delay. Therefore the Court recommends that a committee be set up comprising of representatives of the catering staff and management to deal with the health and safety problems associated with working in the temporary kitchen and acted upon immediately once identified.
The Court also recommends that management should invite a representative from the Health and Safety Authority to examine the situation and to give a report on the working conditions. This should be done without delay.
To compensate for the exceptional circumstances where the old kitchen has been shut down, temporary facilities have been introduced and the projected timescale for the replacement kitchen extended from six months to possibly two years, the Court recommends that the catering staff should be entitled to a once off entitlement of five days annual leave to be allocated between now and 31st March, 2002. These days are to be available to staff on a "replacement basis", i.e. staff absent on leave should be replaced. The claimants should be entitled to opt for these extra days or an equivalent payment whichever they chose.
The vanmen covered by this claim should be entitled to three days annual leave, under the same conditions as described above.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
5th December, 2000______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Tom O'Dea, Court Secretary.