INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 2001
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
HOSPITALLER ORDER OF ST JOHN OF GOD
- AND -
IRISH MUNICIPAL, PUBLIC AND CIVIL TRADE UNION
Chairman: Mr Duffy
Employer Member: Mr Keogh
Worker Member: Ms Ni Mhurchu
1. Changes in work practices
2. The case before the Court concerns a decision taken by the Director, St. John of God Carmona Services, to assign the role of "Designated Person" for children back to the Social Work Department in January, 2002. The decision arose from the resignation of the Programme Manager who had this responsibility as part of her overall role since 1999.
St. John of God Carmona Services provides day training and residential services for children and adults with intellectual disabilities ranging from mild to profound.
The Union claims that within Carmona Services there are a number of "Designated Persons" from different professions such as Consultant Psychiatrists, Programme Managers and Principal Social Workers.It states that the role of "Designated Person" for Children is a senior position. The Union claims that its member should not have been asked to carry out this duty as she is still on probation and her level of seniority and experience was not appropriate to the role.
Management states that the role of "Designated Person" for Children in Carmona Services is professionally, properly and perfectly in the Social Work Department and requests the Court to endorse this arrangement.
As no agreement was possible between the parties the dispute was referred to the Labour Relations Commission. A conciliation conference was held on the 25th June, 2002 but the parties failed to reach agreement. The dispute was referred to the Labour Court on the 26th June, 2002 in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. The Court investigated the dispute on the 16th October, 2002.
3. 1. The role of "Designated Person" has always been a senior management position. It is not right that a person still on probation should be asked to assume this role.
2. A good "Grievance Procedure", well operated, has as its primary aim the speedy and fair resolution of workplace disputes. The Order's handling of this grievance has fallen short of that ideal.
3. The role of "Designated Person" for Children is more often than not undertaken by staff other than Social Workers in the Order.
4. The small size of the Social Work Department and the existing workload make it certain that the effects of the Order's instruction will be to cause unacceptable stress levels and conflicts of interest.
4. 1. The role of the "Designated Person" for Children in Carmona Services should continue to be the responsibility of the Social Work Department.
2. The role of "Designated Person" was previously the responsibility of the Programme Manager. This responsibility was redistributed last January to a number of other Departments, as well as the Social Work Department, with no issues or objections raised by the other Departments.
3. Social Workers, like all other health service employees, are expected to make choices and prioritise their work, using their professional judgement.
4. The role of "Designated Person" for Children in Carmona Services is professionally, properly and perfectly in the Social Work Department. The Order requests the Court to endorse this arrangement.
It is noted that this matter came before the Court following the failure of the parties to satisfactorily resolve a grievance raised by two members of staff through the appropriate procedure. In its approach to this case the Court is guided solely by industrial relations considerations and does not purport to offer any view on what constitutes proper professional standards in this field.
The Court considers that the grievance, in so far as it relates to the allocation of the role of Designated Person for Children to a basic grade social worker, is well founded. This role has heretofore been assigned to a senior staff member. In the Court's view the Order was not justified in instructing a staff member who was still on probation to assume this role having apparently accepted the decision of her senior colleague to decline the role.
The second part of the grievance raised relates to the failure of management to consult with the head of the social work department before assigning the role to a member of that department. At the relevant time the head of this department was absent on sick leave and could not have been consulted. In these circumstances the Court does not believe that this aspect of the grievance is well founded from an industrial relations prospective.
The Court recommends that the role of Designated Person for Children be reassigned to an appropriate department and a staff member of appropriate rank and seniority. In that regard it is noted that the Union accepts that the social work department is an appropriate department to which this role could be assigned.
The Court further recommends that in assigning this role management should ensure that regard is had to existing workloads and that such assistance or resources as may be necessary to discharge the role are provided.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
24th October, 2002______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Larry Wisely, Court Secretary.