INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 2004
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
- AND -
Chairman: Mr Duffy
Employer Member: Mr Grier
Worker Member: Ms Ni Mhurchu
1. Payment of Benchmarking awards.
2. Enterprise Ireland, an Agency of Forfas was created as a result of a merger of An Bord Trachtala (ABT), Forbairt and a small number of employees from FAS. The different entities were brought together and arising from that process different grades, salaries and conditions emerged which were addressed in the context of integration and harmonisation.The Senior Scientific Officer (SSO) Grade in the Agencies is linked to Engineer Grade 1 in the Civil Service. They were awarded 7.8 % under Benchmarking. General service grades represented by SIPTU were harmonised in an agreement made in 1999 which brought about a new grading structure for those grades. One of the new grades was Level E which has a relativity with the Assistant Principal Officer Grade in the Civil Service. They were awarded 13.8% under Benchmarking. This grade is made up of former IDA Grade 3 and ABT Grade 6 staff. In order to achieve this single grade a Level E 'Solution' Grade was red-circled for staff on those grades in 1999. The personal to holder maximum salary which did apply to those staff was equivalent to the SSO Grade.The former ABT Grade7 forms part of the Level E Grade. Employees on former ABT Grade 7 held their salary on a personal to holder basis. The ABT Grade 7 salary was higher than the new Level E Solution Grade. AMICUS on behalf of the SSO Grade pursued a claim for harmonisation with the former ABT 7 Grade (LCR'S 16440 and LCR16585 refer) but the Court did not recommend in favour of the claim. The Union claims that as the pay parity has been achieved between the former Level E Solution Grade and SSO Grade and that the jobs and responsibilities are the same, so too should the amounts awarded under Benchmarking. Management rejected the claim. The dispute was referred to the Labour Relations Commission. A conciliation conference was held but agreement was not reached. The dispute was referred to the Labour Court in April, 2004 in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. A Court hearing was held on the 2nd June, 2004.
3. 1. The application of the 13.8 % to the Level E Solution Grade is in breach of the harmonisation agreement between SIPTU, IDA, and Enterprise Ireland as outlined in LCR 16440 and in particular LCR 16585. Arising from this and Management's own arguments to the Court in LCR 16585 the SSO Grade should have been considered by Management at the same time and in the same context as the Level E Solution Grade and whichever award was determined by Management to be the appropriate award should have been applied to the SSO's in order to maintain the Agencies' argued harmonised position and to not upset, as previously stated by Management, existing harmonised agreements. The full award of 13.8% to the Level E 'Solution' grade gives a 6% increase above the maximum of the SSO grade thus opening up a 6% difference between these harmonised grades.
2. There should be a similar application as determined for the Level E Solution Grade (13.8%) applied to the SSO Grade to maintain the Agencies' argued and established harmonised position and agreements.
4. 1. The pay relativity which previously existed, continue to apply today. At no time since the creation of Enterprise Ireland has there been any discussions or agreement on the possible change of relativities. Following the full implementation of Benchmarking (as at 1st June, 2005) the SSO grade will be in line with the Level E Grade. All new appointees to the Level E Grade since 1999 were made on the agreed standard Level E rate and consequently did not have a salary equivalent to their SSO colleagues. As the Level E Solution scale applies on a red-circle basis to a limited number of staff who were serving on the grade at the time of harmonisation of the grades, the numbers on this scale will decrease over time. The Union is seeking parity with a scale which will be abolished.
2. Concession of the claim would lead to knock on claims from SIPTU in respect of the Level E Grade across the agencies.
The Court is firmly of the view that it would be inappropriate for it to interfere in any way with the awards made in the report of the Public Service Benchmarking Body and claims that it should do so cannot be entertained. The parties should accept the terms of that report as it applies to the relevant grades employed by Enterprise Ireland.
Nevertheless, the Union's claim has some legitimacy in that a clear anomaly has arisen in the salary applicable to its SSO members. In the Court's view this anomaly does not arise from the implementation of the awards made by the Benchmarking Body but is properly attributable to the terms on which the Level E Solution Grade was created in 1999. This grade emerged as part of the solution to industrial relations problems arising from anomalies in the pay structures of staff transferring from the amalgamating agencies who were involved in like work. This new red-circled grade was given effective pay parity with the SSO grade. It is not disputed that the work of SSO's and those on the Level E Solution Grade remains the same in terms of responsibility, content and qualifications.
Against that background the Court can see no meaningful difference in principle between the position which now exists in relation to SSO's and that which gave rise to the creation of the Level E Grade in 1999.The requirements of good industrial relations practice dictates that similar situations should be treated similarly. Hence, the Court believes that in the interests of fairness and consistency the parties should now seek to negotiate and put in place similar industrial relations solutions to the present dispute to those which were found in comparable circumstances in 1999.
Accordingly, the Court recommends that the parties acknowledge the existence of a pay anomaly and resume negotiations with a view to its correction. However, given the current pay structure it is clear that the pay anomaly at issue can only affect those SSO's who were in service at the time the Level E Solution Grade was created. This, and the paramount need to preserve the integrity of the Benchmarking process, should be fully taken into account in those negotiations. Should the parties fail to reach agreement within three months, the matter may be referred back to the Court.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
21st June, 2004______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Tom O'Dea, Court Secretary.