INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Ms Jenkinson
Employer Member: Mr Keogh
Worker Member: Ms Ni Mhurchu
1. Dispute concerning the filling of the position of Town Foreperson.
2. Arising from the retirement of the previous Town Foreperson in December, 1999, the UDC advertised the position and following an interview process appointed on a permanent basis a new Town Foreperson with effect from January, 2000. In October, 2000, the Town Foreperson was seconded to Monaghan County Council for a period of two years, thus creating a temporary vacancy in the post. A panel had been created following the initial interviews for Town Foreperson and the position was offered to and accepted by an employee who had been placed second on the panel. He was not an employee of the UDC. The Union claimed that the decision to appoint this employee was taken without any consultation, that the Assistant Town Foreperson should have been offered the post on an acting up basis, and if he declined that offer, the position should then have been offered internally. The UDC claimed that its decision was irreversible. The dispute was referred to the Labour Relations Commission. A conciliation conference was held on the 20th January, 2000 but no agreement was reached. The dispute was referred to the Labour Court by the Labour Relations Commission on the 20th October, 2000. A Court hearing was held in Cavan on the 8th November, 2000.
3. 1. The Union expected that a temporary vacancy in the Town Foreperson position would be filled by the Assistant Town Foreperson, thus creating a further opportunity for its members to have access to gaining supervisory opportunity and experience by way of the vacancy in the Assistant Town Foreperson position. This would be in keeping with previous practice in the Urban Council. The Assistant Town Foreperson conditions of employment state "be familiar with the duties of a Town Foreperson when required to act in that position". The Assistant Town Foreperson has previously acted up where a temporary vacancy in the Town Foreperson position occurred and is available to act in the temporary vacancy referred to in this case.
2. The Council did not seek consultation or request to discuss with the Union or its members, its decision to fill this temporary vacancy in the manner it did. This lack of consultation is contrary to good industrial relations practice and is contrary to a Partnership approach presently being advanced in the Local Authorities including Monaghan County Council.
3. The Union contests the Council's decision to utilise a panel established for the filling of the Town Foreperson position on a permanent basis to fill a temporary vacancy in the position. In the advertisement for the position of Town Foreperson, which was placed in local newspapers in November, 1999, no reference was made to the establishment of a panel, nor were candidates for the position advised of the establishment of a panel during the interview process. The Union understands that in situations where panels are formed the purpose is to fill any subsequent permanent vacancy arising in the position within a specified period of time. There is no precedent in Monaghan UDC that such a panel is utilised to fill a temporary vacancy in a supervisory post. The Union is not aware of any such precedent nationally.
The UDC decided to utilise the panel and the employee placed 2nd (second) on this panel filled the temporary vacancy on and from 9 October, 2000. The employee has not been previously an employee of a Local Authority. The Council's action is in fact contracting out the filling a temporary vacancy in a supervisory post in the Local Authorities. The Union has no agreement with Monaghan UDC for such an arrangement.
4. Chapter 10 of the Partnership 2000 agreement - "Action to modernise The Public Service" - outlines key principles to achieve which includes development programmes to enhance Public Sector employees competencies and skills to facilitate their career development and promotion opportunities. These principles are further recognised in PPF. The Council's decision in this case is contrary to this commitment in that no opportunity to have access to supervisory experience has been afforded to its own employees. This is one of the main concerns of the Union in this dispute.
5. Recently a Rights Commissioner's Recommendation on issues (including opportunity for supervisory experience) relating to an individual member/employee of Monaghan UDC made reference that opportunity for supervisory experience should be the subject of early discussions between the UDC and Trade Unions with a view to putting in place a fair and equitable system. This Recommendation was issued on 16 August, 2000.
4. 1. The post of Town Foreperson is very important within the UDC staff structure involving significant organisation, supervisory and liaising capabilities. The scope of the duties of the post is very wide-ranging (details supplied to the Court).
2. The vacancy lasts for a minimum of two years. Management must ensure that the operations of the UDC are carried out in an efficient and effective manner. It was important to fill the vacancy with the most qualified employee and the person placed at Number 2 on the panel from which the original appointment was made.
3. There is no policy with the Monaghan UDC for dealing with long term vacancies and this in itself has led to the difficulties that now arise. There is a need for the Union and Management to agree a policy on the filling of temporary vacancies.
4. The position had been offered and accepted by the time the Union advised the Council of its concerns. The Council had no prior knowledge that there would be objections to the recruitment process undertaken and acted upon in good faith at all times. Having recruited the employee in an open and transparent manner, the Council has an obligation to employ him in the position of Townperson for the period of his contract.
5. The Union's concerns regarding Supervisory experience for staff can be addressed by the offer previously made whereby the Council offered to create a temporary acting up position for existing staff to enable them to gain supervisory experience. This would last for a period of two years to coincide with the temporary contract offered to the incumbent Town Foreperson.
6. The Council proposes that both parties get together and formulate a policy for filling all vacancies that arise within the organisation to take account of the Union's concerns.
Having taken into consideration all aspects of this case, the Court understands how the lack of consultation on the appointment of the temporary town foreperson led to real difficulties for the Union. In the circumstances the Court recommends that the incumbent should be retained in the temporary position for the contracted two year period. The assistant town foreperson (the number 3 on the panel) should continue in that post but should be paid the town foreperson acting up rate for that period. Additionally, the assistant town foreperson should be exposed to as much supervisory experience as possible during this period.
This recommendation must be viewed on a red circling basis and cannot be regarded as a precedent for any similar situation in the future.
The Court further recommends that both sides should agree to regularise procedures for the filling of temporary vacancies for the future.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
21st November, 2000______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Tom O'Dea, Court Secretary.