INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 2001
SECTION 13(9), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1969
SLIGO COUNTY COUNCIL
- AND -
(REPRESENTED BY SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION)
Chairman: Ms Jenkinson
Employer Member: Mr Carberry
Worker Member: Mr O'Neill
1. Appeal against Rights Commissioner's Recommendation No. IR4933/01/TB.
2. The worker concerned is an engineer with Sligo County Council since 1982. In 1984, he was appointed Area Engineer and served in Tubbercurry until April, 1995, on design and construction. He had responsibility for quality control. The worker was advised of his pending transfer from Tubbercurry at the Christmas Party in 1994.
- The worker suffered kidney failure in April, 1996. He returned to work in August, 1996 and attended dialysis three mornings per week. While on dialysis the worker raised a number of queries regarding the quality of materials being used within the County. In February, 1998, the worker received a transplant and returned to work in July, 1998. The worker claims that he had no desk, telephone or even an office on his return. In November, 1998, the worker complained about the fact that his reports were being ignored. The worker was advised that a new job in Planning Enforcement was coming on line.
- In February, 1999, the worker was given an office in a prefab at the back of the Council’s premises where he arranged a power supply and a phone connection. Access to the toilet facilities was in the main building some 40 yards away.
- In 2000, the worker requested counselling for bullying from the Personnel Officer. The worker then made a formal complaint in May, 2000. An investigation was initiated and it concluded that the complaint was not well founded and that bullying did not take place. SIPTU, representing the worker, requested an independent external investigation which the Council refused.
- The Union referred a claim for an independent external investigation to a Rights Commissioner. His recommendation issued on the 7th January, 2002, as follows:-
“In the circumstances where SIPTU and the individual concerned do not accept the outcome of the internal investigation then I think the council has no option but to agree to an external independent investigation. The council and SIPTU should agree on who this independent third party should be.”
- The Union appealed the recommendation to the Labour Court on the 1st February, 2002, in accordance with Section 13(9) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1969. The Council also appealed the recommendation to the Labour Court on 15th February, 2002. A Labour Court hearing took place in Sligo on the 28th May, 2002, being the earliest date available to both parties.
3. 1. An investigation into the worker’s complaints of bullying was carried out in accordance with the formal procedures outlined in the Council’s agreed Policy Statement on Harassment and Workplace Bullying. The complaints were not upheld.
2. The Council’s policy on bullying does not provide for a second investigation to be carried out in the event that somebody is dissatisfied with the outcome of an investigation. 3. The Council did not in a previous case agree to a third party referral as claimed by the Union.
- 4. If the Right’s Commissioner’s recommendation was to be upheld it would place an undue burden on the Council as two of the respondents are no longer employed and therefore would not be obliged to co-operate.
4. 1. The investigation failed to take into account the evidence of the worker’s transfer, the materials report and the allegations of formal abuse.
2. The union believes that an independent outside investigation is the only way the matter can be resolved as in a previous case concerning the Council.
3. The Union has sought changes in the policy of the Council with regard to these investigations.
The Labour Court gave careful consideration to the written and oral submissions of the parties. The Management appealed the Rights Commissioner's recommendation as they were satisfied that the investigation carried out into the complainant of bullying was in compliance with its agreed procedures. The Union wishes to seek implementation of the Rights Commissioner's recommendation.
The Union stated to the Court that in it's view; the key issue was the right to process the issue of bullying to a third party once the internal investigation was exhausted.
The Court is satisfied that the procedures used in this investigation were in accordance with the policy on "Workplace Bullying" as agreed between the parties and in place at the time.
In this regard the Court has taken account of the Code of Practice Detailing "Procedures for Addressing Bullying in the Workplace" (S.I. No: 17 of 2002) made under Section 42 of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990 which states
" If either party is unhappy with the outcome of the investigation, the issue may be processed through the normal industrial relations mechanism".
Accordingly, the Rights Commissioner's recommendation is overturned and the Court upholds the management's appeal.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
10th June, 2002______________________
Enquiries concerning this Decision should be addressed to Caroline Hayes, Court Secretary.