INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 2004
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
LOUTH FIRE AUTHORITIES/LOUTH COUNTY COUNCIL
(REPRESENTED BY THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT MANAGEMENT SERVICES
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Ms Jenkinson
Employer Member: Mr Doherty
Worker Member: Mr. Somers
1. 1. Telephone allowance. 2.F&G payment. 3 Driver/mechanics' rate.
2. The Union's claim is on behalf of the retained Fire Fighters in Co. Louth. The claims in regard to the call-out payments and the drivers' rate arise out of the 1999 Composite National Agreement (the 1999 Agreement) for retained Fire Fighters. Briefly, the three claims are as follows :
1.Telephone allowance:In 1989, a Department of Environment circular issued which outlined the amount and basis on which the telephone allowance is paid. It read as follows:
"In accordance with existing practice, this allowance is payable to not more than two members of each part-time Fire Brigade Unit. Payment should continue only for so long as such members have a telephone installed in their homes for the purpose of receiving fire calls and also have responsibility for activating the fire alarm for the Unit".
(The Union claims that there are three Units in Co. Louth - Carlingford, Ardee and Dunleer - which meet the criteria as outlined above.) The Authority's case is that the allowance is only paid where there is no centralised mobilisation system in place, and that nearly all local authorities are moving toward such a system known as CAMP (Computer Aided Mobilisation Projects)
2F & G Payments:At present, the call out payments in circumstances where retained Fire Fighters respond if the call ends up cancelled or if they are left at the station are as follows: daytime response €30.10 and night time response €60.20. In Dundalk, if a retained Fire Fighter responds, they receive what is known as the F & G payment, i.e: "F" payment of €12.26 day time and "G" payment of €24.52 night time. The Union is seeking full payment for its members.
3.Driver/mechanic rate:The 1999 Agreement stated that the rate of pay for the grade of driver / mechanic be equal to that of a sub-officer. The Union claim's that the Authority has refused to pay the sub-officer rate to retained Fire Fighter who undertake driving duties.
The Union claims that it tried to have the three issues referred to Ms. Janet Hughes, the agreed adjudicator between the trade Unions and the LGMSB but that the Management side refused to partake.
The Authority rejected the three claims and they were referred to the Labour Relations Commission. As the parties did not reach agreement, the dispute was referred to the Labour Court on the 13th of February, 2004, in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. A Labour Court hearing took place on the 19th of August, 2004, in Dundalk.
3. 1.Telephone allowance:Co Louth has not yet signed up to CAMP. In other local authorities that have not yet signed up, the telephone allowance is paid.
2. In each of the three part-time units in Co. Louth, the Fire Fighters had to be activated by the use of telephones in both the Station Officer and sub Station Officers homes.
1.F & G Payments:The 1999 Agreement states:
"It is agreed that on-call Fire Fighters who responded within the turnout time limit will receive full pay for the incident in all circumstances".
2. The workers concerned do not receive full pay. Retained Fire Fighters employed by Drogheda Corporation and in other County Stations receive payment in accordance with the 1999 agreement.
1.Driver / Mechanic Rate:Despite having retained Fire Fighters undertaking drivers duties, the Authority in Co. Louth has refused to pay the sub-officer rate. The Union made a similar claim in Co. Waterford in 2001 and that was conceded as a result of an adjudication.
4.1.Telephone allowance:The allowance being claimed is only paid where there is no centralised mobilisation system in place. Fire services in Louth Local Authority are alerted by a central mobilisation system based in Dundalk and Drogheda which has been in place for over 30 years.
2. For the 6 month period January to June, 2004, all calls except for two were alerted by the central mobilisation system in Carlingford, Ardee and Dundalk.
3. In 1992, agreement was reached on compensation for loss of the telephone allowance in return for continuing co-operation with the introduction of the centralised call-out system.
1.F & G Payments:The 1992 Agreement covering both full-time and retained personnel contained an agreed retained Fire-Fighting manning system (details supplied to the Court). It is only off-duty personnel who are paid the reduced F&G rates when they remain at the station and do not attend the incident.
2. The 1992 Agreement was a package of improvements for all personnel, both full-time and retained, and was accepted by all personnel.
3. The Authority accepts that a change to the Agreement occurred in Drogheda where the full on-call payment is made but contends that this change occurred due to an administration error.
1.Driver / Mechanic Rate:The Union claim would require the creation of driver/mechanic grades in each of the stations required. The driver/mechanic grades refers to personnel who are detailed to carry out maintenance on fire service vehicles and to drive vehicles. There are no driver/mechanic posts in the retained Fire Service in Co. Louth as maintenance to vehicles is carried out by eight full-time Fire Fighters/Mechanics.
The Union submitted three claims to the Court. Having considered the oral and written submissions of the parties, the Court recommends as follows:-
The Union sought the application of the national telephone allowance to retained station officers and sub officers in Dunleer, Carlingford and Ardee. This allowance, which has been in existence since 1982, is provided to no more than two members of part-time fire brigade units for the purpose of receiving fire calls at their homes and for the responsibility of activating the fire alarm for these units. This requires such telephones to be manned on a permanent basis.
Having examined the details, the Court is satisfied that the retained station officer and sub officers concerned have not had to undertake such manning of telephones, and do not carry such responsibilities. Such a commitment has arisen on very rare occasions. Therefore, the Court does not recommend concession of the claim.
F & G Payments
The Union is not satisfied that retained fire fighters in Dundalk are been treated fairly in relation to the application the on-call rate as specified in the 1999 Composite Agreement when they respond to a call within the turnout time limit. The Agreement states:
"It is agreed that all on-call firefighters who respond within the turnout time limit will receive full pay for the incident in all circumstances"
The Union argue that retained fire-fighters employed in Dundalk Town Council receive lesser payments (F and G payments) in circumstances where they respond to a call out, but do not attend the incident or where they remain at the station. Management states that F and G payments are in accordance with the 1992 agreement for retained fire-fighters. It states that off-duty personnel who are not on-call are not entitled to the 1999 agreement rates.
The Court recommend that the 1999 Composite Agreement should apply in a uniform fashion to all fire-fighters called out in such circumstances, i.e. the Court is recommending that off-duty retained fire-fighters should be entitled to full payments in an "all personnel alert" situation, whether they attend the incident or stay in the station.
The Union is seeking the appointment of four drivers /mechanics positions to each retained fire fighters crew and is also seek payment on a red-circled basis of the appropriate rate to the four appointed.
The Council states that there is no requirement for the retained fire-fighters to carry out these duties as there are eight qualified mechanics in the Louth Local Authorities and, therefore, there is no basis for paying others for this work. It also pointed out that the recent parallel benchmarking award for retained fire-fighters provided that a minimum of 75% of fire-fighters should drive appliances and no additional payment would be made in respect of driving duties.
The Court is of the view that the Union's claim is effectively asking the Court to put in place a structure post the parallel benchmarking exercise for which there was no requirement and which, had it applied prior to the exercise, would have been redcircled in respect of the existing job holders.
Having considered all arguments made, the Court does not see merit in the claim, and accordingly, does not recommend in favour of the Union.
The Court so recommends.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
6th September, 2004______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Ciaran O'Neill, Court Secretary.