INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
SOUTH EASTERN HEALTH BOARD - ST SENAN'S HOSPITAL
- AND -
PSYCHIATRIC NURSES' ASSOCIATION
Chairman: Ms Jenkinson
Employer Member: Mr Keogh
Worker Member: Mr. Somers
1. Compensation For Unpaid Premium Payments On Call Allowance
2. St. Senan's Hospital provides psychiatric services to a population of 104,000 people in the Wexford area. Over the past fifteen years services have broadened to community based hostel care. This development has been enabled by the purchase of private houses in a community setting all of which are managed by Wexford Mental Health Association Limited.
The dispute concerns the Union's claim for premium payments on behalf of a nurse who was employed in a Health Board holiday home (Ardamine) attached to St. Senan's Hospital during the period 1985 to 1987. The claim was first lodged in late 1987 and has been rejected by a number of hospital managers over the years.
The Union claims that the premises operated as a hostel from October, 1985 and that the worker was denied access to night duty rotas and Sunday/Bank Holiday premium which would have been a feature of her rota when employed in the hospital. It argues that the worker was approached at the end of the 1985 season by the Acting Chief Nursing Officer (ACNO) and requested to accommodate the Board by agreeing to a work pattern of a week- on and a week- off until the premises opened as a hostel in January, 1986. The Board did not open the premises as a hostel until May, 1987.
The Board rejects the Claim. Its position is that the worker was one of a number of nurses who made themselves available to accompany patients on holiday and she made it known that she would like to gain experience in the Community in order to enhance her career path with a view to a confined competition for a nursing officer post in the community and was so accommodated.
The matter was the subject of a conciliation conference held under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission. As agreement could not be reached the dispute was referred to the Labour Court on the 23rd of September, 1999 under Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. A Labour Court hearing took place in Wexford on the 1st of March, 2000.
3. 1. The worker did turns of duty at the holiday home during the holiday season in 1984 and 1985. At the end of the 1985 season she was asked by the ACNO if she would accommodate the Hospital by agreeing to work week-on, week-off for a short period as it intended to open the premises as a hostel with 14 patients in January, 1986.
2. At the end of January, 1986 the worker made various protests to both management and to her Trade Union regarding her continued enforced domicile in the Hostel.
3. The worker had a total commitment every second week to her job (both day and night) from 7pm on a Monday evening until 7 pm on the following Monday evening, a total of 168 hours. She was the only staff member on duty. On Sundays and Bank Holidays her premium pay was capped at eight hours even though she worked the longer hours which had been a feature of her hospital roster.
4. Her working day spanned 8am to 11pm with a sleepover from 11pm to 8am. She received no remuneration for the sleepover duty.
5. Management's argument that concession of this claim would lead to similar claims on behalf of nurses in other holiday homes is rejected by the Union. Holiday homes are used from approximately May to September, and the patients are rotated.
6. The PNA can give a categoric assurance that it will not lodge any claim based on concession of the claim before the Court.
7. It is clear that this holiday home became a hostel in October, 1985 with four patients. Rent became payable for the four clients assigned to the hostel from the 20th of October, 1985. They were issued with medical cards and became patients of a local doctor. Patients on holiday continue to be patients of the Hospital.
HEALTH BOARD'S ARGUMENTS:
4. 1. The worker was one of a number of nurses, approximately 45 who made themselves available to accompany patients on holiday. In this instance she made it known to the Chief Nursing Officer and to the ACNO that she would like to gain experience in the community in order to enhance her career path with a view to a confined competition for a Nursing Officer post in the community. She particularly requested to be left in Ardamine where a post of Nursing Officer had been approved for filling by confined competition at a time when the Mental Health Association Limited decided to keep a patient presence in the house on a holiday basis until all relevant matters concerned with formalising a hostel arrangement were finalised.
2. The provision of this holiday facility is an invaluable enhancement of services to the long term clients of the Mental Health Services. The voluntary nature of the support service from staff is essential to the provision of these holidays, but also allows staff to opt out of this duty if they so wish. The payment at standard rostered time appreciates the generosity of staff who may earn more in that period if rostered in hospital through premiums, but also recognises the "holiday" nature of this duty in a pleasant environment with expenses paid.
3. Ardamine was a guest house in private ownership rented by the Wexford Mental Health Association on a weekly basis as a holiday facility for long stay patients. The association was paying an exclusive per capita cost to the owner for that service. This house became available for sale and the Board agreed to purchase it as part of its hostel accommodation. This transaction was concluded in 1987. Due to the transitional period in 1986/87 while the Board purchased these premises it was decided to maintain a small number of patients on extended holiday in the house. Though extended in time period the nature of the duty and care was that of a holiday home, the care of four middle aged men, highly independent.
4. The worker was aware of the nature of this employment and remuneration appropriate to it and requested the Chief Nursing Officer to allow her the Ardamine post.
The Court has considered the written and oral submissions of the parties. This claim refers back to the period from October 1985 to May 1987 when the claimant was employed in Ardamine Hostel. The claim is for compensation payments due to the loss of premium payments paid for those who worked in St. Senan's Hospital.
The Court is satisfied that the claimant freely entered into such employment, that she expressed a wish to work in the hostel and that she was free to revert to hospital work if she so requested.
By opting to work in the hostel, the claimant increased her opportunities to work in community care, due to the experience she gained from working in the hostel. While her hours of duty were longer than in the hospital, the work was of a lighter nature.
The Court notes that the transition period between Ardamine being a holiday home and a community hostel was longer than expected, however, the claimant did not exercise her option to revert back to ward duty during that time.
Therefore, the Cout does not recommend concession of the claim.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
27 March, 2000______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Fran Brennan, Court Secretary.