INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
IRISH BLOOD TRANSFUSION SERVICE
(REPRESENTED BY IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Ms Jenkinson
Employer Member: Mr Pierce
Worker Member: Ms Ni Mhurchu
1. Subsistence payments
2. The claim is on behalf of 14 Donor Attendants employed by the Service for retrospective payment of a subsistence allowance, from 1994 to 1999. The workers are employed by the Service's mobile unit which operates the Mid-West area, and are located in Limerick. The workers were employed by the Limerick Blood Transfusion Service which merged with the national Blood Transfusion Service Board (BTSB) in 1991. The organisation is now known as the Irish Blood Transfusion Service, and employs approximately 480 people in Dublin, Cork and Limerick. Following the merger, the Donor Attendants in Limerick remained on terms and conditions of employment which differed from those applying in Dublin and Cork. One of the differences was that the Attendants in Limerick were paid on a sessional basis rather than an hourly rate like their colleagues in Dublin and Cork. Attendants would be rostered to work 1 or 2 sessions per day, depending on the duration of a clinic, and were paid £25 per session from 1994. (Since 1999, these workers have been paid on an hourly rate).
In 1992, the Service secured approval from the Department of Health for payment of a subsistence allowance to employees who were compelled to work away from base. Employees who were away from base for a period in excess of 5 hours received a payment of £7.25, and those away in excess of 10 hours received £17.75. (These payments have increased over the years). The Union's claim is that, although the workers concerned regularly worked away from base for in excess of 10 hours, they never received the higher subsistence allowance. The Service's view is that the subsistence allowance was only paid where 2 consecutive sessions occurred "...as per public service rates".
The Union first raised the issue in January, 1994, and subsequently corresponded with the Service on a number of occasions. The Union is claiming retrospection of £600 per person per year of service.
The dispute was referred to the Labour Relations Commission, and a conciliation conference took place in June, 2000. As the parties did not reach agreement, the dispute was referred to the Labour Court on the 11th of September, 2000, in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. A Labour Court hearing took place on the 24th of January, 2001.
3. 1. The employees concerned worked away from base, on a regular basis, for in excess of 10 hours but never received the higher subsistence payment.
2. The Service has been extremely erratic in its response to the claim. On some occasions it claimed that the workers had received their entitlements even though it stated that no employee has received the higher rate. On other occasions it claims that no worker on sessional rates was entitled to subsistence payments.
3. The Service is wrong in trying to argue that subsistence payments and wages are somehow linked. The payment of subsistence is to compensate employees who incur expenses during the course of their duties.
4. 1 Only Donor Attendants paid on an hourly rate received subsistence payments, based on hours actually worked. Those on sessional payment did not receive subsistence payments unless a double session was worked. This was part of the agreed terms and conditions of employment. When the workers concerned accepted hourly pay in 1999, the subsistence arrangements changed accordingly.
2. The Union has accepted that, from 1991-1998, the workers received payment for a number of hours which exceeded the hours actually worked.
3. The fact that the issue was not raised until 1994 demonstrates that the subsistence payments were paid as agreed.
Having taken the written and oral submissions into consideration, the Court is of the view that it was clear to the donor attendants who were employed on a sessional basis that a subsistence allowance would be paid where two consecutive sessions were worked in any day, and that the public service subsistence allowances would apply.
Based on the evidence supplied, as double session hours were less than 10 hours, it appears to the Court that the practice of paying the public service subsistence rate applicable to"5 hours but less than 10 hours"has been applied consistently. However, if the records can show that the claimants worked in excess of 10 hours on occasions during the period in question, then the parties should resolve the situation on the basis of the payment of the appropriate public service subsistence rate.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
28th February, 2001______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Ciaran O'Neill, Court Secretary.