INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 20(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1969
WESTERN DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION
(REPRESENTED BY IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
IRISH MUNICIPAL, PUBLIC AND CIVIL TRADE UNION
Chairman: Mr Flood
Employer Member: Mr Pierce
Worker Member: Ms Ni Mhurchu
1. Alleged refusal to implement in full an independent human resources review
2. The Commission was set up initially in February, 1997, on a non-statutory basis. It is a non-commercial, semi-state company funded in its entirety by the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development. All of the staff were recruited on fixed salaries. The Union's case is that the staff accepted this situation on the understanding that a human resources strategy would be forthcoming once the Commission was set up. Since late 1997, a number of meetings have taken place to try to resolve the issue of appropriate salary/grading and bonus for the staff. The Union claims that all attempts have failed due to the procrastination and delay of the funding Departments.
In late 1999, the Commission was established as a statutory body. In early 2000, an independent human resources review was conducted by Farrell Grant Sparks (FGS). The recommendations contained in the FGS report were accepted by the Commission and, the Union claims, by the Department of Agriculture but were rejected by the Department of Finance.
The main grades in dispute are 2 Investment Executive/Regional Development Executive/Policy Analysts (IEs), one chief executive officer (CEO) and one divisional manager (DM). Failure to implement the FGS report would result in the 2 IEs being reduced from the recommended grade of assistant principal (AP) standard scale to higher executive officer (HEO) with a loss of £5,000 per annum each; the CEO and the DM would suffer a loss of bonus. The Commission has expressed sympathy with the Union's position but states that it cannot get funding from the Department of Finance to implement the FGS report.
The Union referred the case to the Labour Court on the 12th of April, 2001, in accordance with Section 20(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1969. A Labour Court hearing took place on the 22nd of May, 2001, in Athlone.
3. 1. Staff were recruited on fixed-rate salaries with the clear understanding that this was to be subject to a review. The Union made it clear that these salaries were not the subject of collective bargaining.
2. It is unreasonable for the Department of Finance to find fault with the review process at the end, particularly as it was aware of the terms of reference at all times.
3. Both the IEs are highly technically skilled with relevant degree qualifications. Their jobs require a very high level of commitment in terms of workload and level of personal resposibility.
4. The current staffs' fixed salaries are at the top of the HEO pay scale with no further promotional/monetary prospects. The Commission has already found it difficult to fill posts at this level. If the posts are downgraded they will be impossible to fill.
4. 1. Under the terms of the Western Development Commission Act 1998, the remuneration, allowances and terms and conditions of employment of the staff are subject to the consent of the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, and the Minister for Finance.
2 Most of the recommendations of the FGS report have been accepted by the management side. All of the grades, including the 2 IEs, will have a direct relativity with grades in the civil service.
3. If the FGS report was accepted in regard to the 2 IEs it would result in the highly unusual situation of an AP (standard) officer reporting to an AP (higher) officer. It would not be appropriate for a small non-commercial State body to set a precedent in this regard.
Comprehensive written and oral submissions were made by the parties. It was clarified that two issues were before the Court, (a) Bonus Scheme and (b) Grading. The Court, having considered all of the issues in this case, recommends as follows:-
(A) Bonus Scheme
The Court accepts the management arguments made in relation to non-availability of bonus on a broad basis across the non-commerical state sector and the wider public service, and the requirement for guidelines for such a scheme.
However, the Court notes that the management statement that the introduction of a bonus scheme was being actively considered, and recommends that this claim await the outcome of these deliberations.
The Independent Review was the culmination of a lengthy period of discussions on grading matters. It was not unreasonable for these employees to expect that the recommendations would be accepted by the employer.
While the Department of Finance has the ultimate role in deciding whether or not the proposals are implemented, no satisfactory reasons were given to justify how it was decided to refuse to sanction the proposed grading but to offer the same grading as the Office Administrator.
The Court, having considered all the issues involved in this case and the background, recommends that the proposed grading be awarded on a red-circle basis to the affected staff.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
15th June, 2001______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Ciaran O'Neill, Court Secretary.