INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 2001
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
ST. VINCENT'S UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL
- AND -
IRISH NURSES' ORGANISATION
Chairman: Mr Duffy
Employer Member: Mr Keogh
Worker Member: Mr O'Neill
1. On-call/call-out rates in Radiology Department.
2. The Union claims that nurses working in the Radiology Department of the hospital established parity of remuneration with their colleagues in the National Liver Transplant Programme for on-call work and commitments with effect from May 2000.
Provisions for a biennial review resulted in rates for on-call being adjusted upwards with effect from September 2001 to reflect both the provisions in Labour Court Recommendation LCR16261 and the excessive commitments to on-call by both groups of nurses. An interim offer was accepted pending a referral of outstanding matters to the Labour Court.
Management rejected the Union's claim. It states that there is no sustainable reason why the Radiology nurses should be paid the special rates that have been agreed for nurses in the National Liver Transplant Programme. Management claims that a proposed national on-call rate which emerged following negotiations at the Labour Relations Commission will encompass all radiology departments of all hospitals, if accepted.
As agreement was not possible, the dispute was referred to the Conciliation Service of the Labour Relations Commission (LRC). A conciliation conference was held on the 5th November, 2002, but agreement was not reached. The dispute was referred to the Labour Court on the 2nd January, 2003, in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. The Court investigated the dispute on the 26th March, 2003.
3. 1. The Radiology Department of the hospital has had chronic staffing problems over recent years due to an inability to recruit and retain staff with the necessary skills to provide this expert service.
2. Despite having reached an agreement for the revised rates to apply to both groups of workers, management proceeded to only pay the revised rates to the nurses working on the National Liver Transplant Programme.
3. Inadequate staffing levels resulted in a very small number of nurses having an excessive and inordinate commitment to on-call. Sometimes nurses were on-call every second night and every second weekend during their rostered time-off.
4. This is not a significant cost increasing claim. The claim will only effect one nurse per night in the hospital with no consequent knock-on claims.
4. 1. The rates that are eventually agreed nationally for theatre nurses on-call should also apply to nurses in the Radiology Department.
2. The LRC proposed revised national rates on the understanding that the rates would be put by all parties with a recommendation for acceptance. The Union's response is awaited on this matter.
3. There was never an agreement between management and the Union that the rates payable to nurses in the National Liver Transplant Programme would apply to nurses in the Radiology Department.
4. Concession of the Union's claim will lead to follow on claims from the nursing unions at a time when management and Union's have recently concluded negotiations for a revised national theatre on-call rate under Labour Court Recommendation LCR16261.
There is a sharp disagreement between the parties as to whether the payment of a special on call allowance (in excess of national rates) to the claimants was intended as a permanent arrangement or as a temporary measure to cover a period of particular staff shortage. It is noted that in respect of this latter point, agreement was reached in 2001 to refer this issue to third party adjudication. Nonetheless no steps were taken by either side to do so.
A further and related issue arising in this case concerns the scope of the proposed national on-call rates which emerged following negotiations at the Labour Relations Commission in February of this year. The management are of the view that the radiology department of St Vincent's, in common with the radiology departments of all other hospitals, will be encompassed by the proposals if accepted. The Union is of the view that St Vincent's is outside the scope of the proposals.
In the Court's view no useful recommendation could be made on the appropriate call out rate, or on the related matters now before the Court, until there is clarity on the two issues referred to above.
The Court recommends that the parties resume negotiations on the circumstances and/or duration in which a special allowance should continue. This will necessarily involve resolving the question of whether or not the national proposals are of any application to the claimants. If agreement is not reached on this issue the parties should refer the issue in dispute to third party adjudication as previously agreed.
When these matters are resolved the Court should be informed of the outcome and it will then issue a definitive recommendation.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Larry Wisely, Court Secretary.