INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
NORTH EASTERN HEALTH BOARD
- AND -
PSYCHIATRIC NURSES' ASSOCIATION
Chairman: Ms Jenkinson
Employer Member: Mr Keogh
Worker Member: Mr O'Neill
2. The Board operated a regional residential service for people with autism in Dundalk were provided from Mounthamilton House, Dundalk, until early June, 1999 and were then transferred to a new location at Point Road, Dundalk, 2 ½ miles away.
The Union claims that its members have experienced a succession of events over the past number of years, while working in the unit at Mounthamilton House. The Union is seeking compensation for its members for the re-location and also for the trauma and stress caused to the nurses concerned.
Management rejected the Union's claim for compensation and stated that the new premises at Point Road, Dundalk, was only 2 ½ miles away and that the Health Board had provided a counselling service to all staff affected by the trauma at Mounthamilton House.
As no agreement was possible between the parties the dispute was referred to the Labour Relations Commission. A conciliation conference was held on the 3rd of June, 1999, but no agreement was reached. The dispute was referred to the Labour Court on the 30th of June, 1999, in accordance with Section 26(1) of Industrial Relations Act, 1990. The Court investigated the dispute on the 26th of November, 1999 (the earliest date suitable to the parties).
3. 1. The Union is seeking compensation for its members for the stress and trauma caused by the events at Mounthamilton House.
2. The Union is also seeking compensation for staff because of the re-location of services to the new premises at Point Road, Dundalk.
3. Management should concede this claim on the basis that the staff concerned have endured considerable stress and strain at Mounthamilton House over the past number of years.
4. 1. The move to new premises is only 2 ½ miles away. The claim for compensation in this regard is unjustified.
2. Where the Board operates a unified service within the same towns, staff are regularly rostered or re-located to different areas. No compensation is paid in such circumstances.
3. When the difficulties associated with Mounthamilton House arose, the Board offered a counselling service to all staff which was availed of.
4. Concession of the claim would have repercussive effects for the Board.
The claim is for a lump sum to be paid as compensation for stress and trauma endured due to particular events in the workplace, as described at the hearing. However, the Court has investigated management's response to complaints made and requests for assistance in the handling of the problems endured.
This was a difficult and unusual situation for management to have to resolve. However, from the evidence supplied by management as requested at the hearing, the Court is satisfied that the situation was handled as well as could be expected under the circumstances. Nevertheless, staff have been through very difficult and stressful experiences which requires professional help.
The Court is aware that a counselling service was set-up to assist staff. The Court notes that only two of the claimants opted for such help to date. It is noted by the Court, that the counselling service suggested that further access to other forms of professional help may also be necessary.
The Court strongly recommends that such professional help should be available for as long as it is necessary. The Court also recommends that management should ensure that, for all of the claimants here concerned, there are no obstacles to the availability of any of these services.
As the Board intends to re-use this building for a different purpose, the Court recommends that in the interest of all concerned, the Board should seek the advice of a psychologist on this point.
The Court does not consider that compensation is appropriate in respect of the stress and trauma caused and is not warranted in respect of the relocation of staff from Mounthamilton House to Point Road, therefore these claims are rejected.
With regard to the future of staff attached to the Autistic Services, the Court notes the agreement between the parties to hold on this issue until the situation is finalised. If necessary, the issue may be referred back to the Court for a definitive recommendation.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
12th January, 2000.______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Larry Wisely, Court Secretary.