INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 2004
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Ms Jenkinson
Employer Member: Mr Carberry
Worker Member: Mr Nash
1. Redeployment/rotation of Industry Specialist Managers
2. The dispute before the Court relates to the proposed rotation of five Industry Specialist Managers to different industry portfolios within the Services to Business (STB) unit of FÁS. The basic function of the STB is to position FÁS to be the main provider of Human Resources Development Services to Irish business. The rotation of Industry Specialist Managers is sought by FÁS as part of a wider restructuring involving STB managers. The Union contends that the Industry Experts in question have the responsibility for the development of training strategies and action plans in the STB and are currently in the process of preparing such programs and strategies and any removal of their expertise and input to such programs would be catastrophic for all concerned.
- The dispute could not be resolved at the conciliation conference under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission. As agreement was not reached, the dispute was referred to the Labour Court on the 20th October, 2004, in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. A Labour Court hearing took place on the 19th January, 2005, the earliest date suitable to the parties.
3.1. The contracts of employment advise of appointments to the post of Industry Expert in a particular industry. The rotation is in conflict with the protection afforded to the Industry Experts under their contracts of employment.
2. The recognisedFÁS staff transfer policy advises of the fact that certain posts require specialist knowledge, skills and experience and therefore are not eligible for transfer unless the individual has the required specialist skills. In this case FÁS are contradicting the spirit and understanding of their own policies and are clearly in breach of same. Management have put forward nothing constructive to resolve the dispute and seem intent on achieving such a fundamental change in dictatorial fashion, which is contrary to the Partnership philosophy.
3. There is no professional or logical benefit to FÁS, FÁS clients or the Specialist Managers, if FÁS pursues such a fundamental change to the workers existing function and area of responsibility and specialism. To rotate Industry Specialists from one area of responsibility to another, just for the sake of doing so, defeats the whole purpose of having such experts in place.
4. The FÁS position in imposing such unnecessary, fundamental and illogical change is unacceptable to the Union and Industry Specialists who have provided undisputed excellent service over three decades. The Industry Specialists feel aggrieved and are reluctant to be transferred, rotated or redeployed on a compulsory basis.
4.1. Agreement has been reached with the STB staff on the urgent need for restructuring of the central STB unit. There is also agreement on the form that this new structure will take. Six of the eleven Industry Training Specialists have agreed and are ready to take up their new assignments. The five specialists, in refusing to accept the re-assignments, are preventing their colleagues from taking up their positions. This gives rise to a serious and fundamental issue concerning the authority of the Executive Board and the discretion of FÁS management to assign work to managers that is wholly appropriate to their grade and unit.
2. The decision by FÁS to re allocate duties amongst staff at the same grade is reasonable and is in line with normal business practice in FÁS and elsewhere.
3. The flexible movement of management level staff has been a key part of FÁS activity over the years and the maintenance of this flexibility going forward is critical to the ongoing effectiveness of the organisation.
4. The Union has argued that because the five individuals have the work “specialist” in their current job title, that this in some way precludes FÁS from applying standard rotation practices to them. This is not the case. They benefit from the same conditions of employment as other managers and are included in the same rotational arrangements as their colleagues.
The Court is being asked to adjudicate upon a dispute, which relates to the refusal of five Industry Experts to rotate to different Industry portfolios within the STB unit of FÁS.
In June 2004 an agreed restructuring plan was put to the Executive Board of FÁS, however, the board decided to implement the plan by reassigning client portfolios amongst the existing Industry Training Specialist and changing the area of responsibility of one senior manager. The Union objects to the reassignments and held that there was no consultation or agreement on the matter. It states that it does not object to rotation being "actively encouraged" but does object to compulsory reassignment.
The Union accepts that additional duties and responsibilities were agreed to as part of the restructuring plan but that there was no reference to rotation of Industry Experts. It states that this proposed rotation is in breach of the claimants' contracts of employment and in breach of FÁS Staff Transfer Policy and contrary to FÁS Job Rotation Policy.
While the Union does not dispute management's right to manage it states that the discharge of this function must be done in a fair, reasonable, logical and beneficial fashion and consistent with the policies of FÁS.
Management states that six of the eleven existing Industry Training Specialists have agreed to take up the new assignments approved by the Executive Board of FÁS. It contends that to reallocate duties amongst staff at the same grade is reasonable, is in line with normal business practice and custom and practice in FÁS and other public sector organisations and there will be no change in grade, base, division, reporting structure or location. Management states that this dispute gives rise to a fundamental issue concerning the authority of the Executive Board and the discretion of senior management.
Having considered the views of the parties expressed in their oral and written submissions, and in recognition of the rotation's and transfer precedents within the organisation, and the Union's acceptance of the principle of rotation/reassignment, on this basis the Court recommends that discussions on its implementation for Industry Expert positions should commence without delay, however, management must have regard to the individual circumstances of all concerned.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
7th February, 2005______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Joanne O'Connor, Court Secretary.