INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 2004
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
(REPRESENTED BY SOUTHERN HEALTH BOARD)
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
IRISH NURSES ORGANISATION
Chairman: Ms Jenkinson
Employer Member: Mr Grier
Worker Member: Mr O'Neill
1. Pension entitlements.
2. The dispute before the Court relates to the issue of pension entitlements for 30 nursing staff employed at Heatherside Hospital, Cork. Employees who are employed in hospitals, which are designated under Section 65 of the Mental Treatment Act, 1961, receive more beneficial pension entitlements than nurses in other hospitals in that they qualify for double years after 20 years service. The Unions are claiming that the nurses in Heatherside Hospital have the right to access the enhanced superannuation benefits as officers of the Mental Health Authority. It is the Unions position that even though the hospital in question is not designated by the Southern Health Board under Section 65 of the Act, all of the duties performed by the nurses are similar to those performed by nurses in designated hospitals. In this regard the Unions maintain that similar pension entitlements should apply. Management rejects the claim.
- The dispute could not be resolved at local level and was the subject of a 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 27th October 2004, in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. A Labour Court hearing took place on the 4th May 2005, the earliest date suitable to the parties.
3. 1. HSE (SA) and Department of Health have argued that neither Mount Alvernia or Heatherside are designated Hospitals under Section 65 of the Mental Treatment Act 1961, yet they have not demonstrated why they neglected to designate these as Mental Health Facilities.The Union's members have been severely disadvantaged over the years by this. They have cared for mental health patients since the 1950's but have not been recognised from a superannuation basis correctly - Section 61(1)(a) Mental Health Treatment Act 1945.
2. North Cork Psychiatric Services are headquartered in Sarsfield Court Hospital, Glanmire. This is referred to in the HSE (SA)'s own description of designated sites. Heatherside is under the same budget and Management Team as Sarsfield Court. As the move to return to psychiatric patients to the community care setting has unfolded in recent years, other 24 hour units of care have unfolded i.e. Bantry, Skibbereen, Mallow, Midleton, Grove House Cork City and County and St. Raphaels. Nurses who work in these hospitals have enjoyed access to double years pension entitlements after 20 years service. They are identical type work places to Heatherside whose existence began following transfer of patients from an alternative care setting within the Mental Health Authority.
3.There is an established precedent within the former Southern Health Board in St. Ann's Skibbereen where patients were transferred to the Unit from Our Lady's Hospital, Cork and Nurses at the Centre were permitted access to double years pension entitlements after 20 years services for pension purposes on a red circled basis. This precedent has been repeated by the SHE (SA) over the years, but always for individual workers or small groups, many of whom were not nurses at all. The failure of the SHB to maintain the required register jeopardises every eligible nurse in the Authority but in particular, the Nurses in Heatherside who have been purposefully excluded from the Scheme since the 1950's.
4. 1. Management advised both Unions that Heatherside Hospital was not a designated hospital under Section 65 of the Mental Treatment Act, 1945 and therefore, staff employed at Heatherside Hospital would not qualify for registration under Section 65 of the aforementioned Act. It has also never been visited or reported upon by the Inspector of Mental Hospitals.
2. All nurses working in Heatherside Hospital are General Trained Nurses. Nationally, the terms of the Mental Treatment Act 1945 apply only to designated centres as set out in the Act. The new Pensions Act, 2004, sets aside the enhanced provisions to all new entrants to the Mental Health Services.
3. With specific regard for the claim on the grounds of less favourable working conditions, reference is made to the Equality Officer Recommendation DEC-E2002-044. This decision was appealed to theLabour Court AEP/02/3 Determination No. 051 which affirmed the Decision of the Equality Officer who held that the"requirements in relation to Psychiatric nursing have no relevance to, or detrimental impact on, a nurse who trains in general nursing (male or female). For whatever historical reasons concerning the nature of Psychiatric nursing in 1945, the legislature considered it appropriate to provide that Psychiatric nurses should be allowed to retire on full pension at a younger age than general nurses".
The Unions on behalf of the nurses in Heatherside Hospital sought access to enhanced superannuation benefits as provided by the Mental Treatment Act, 1945 to designated officers of approved mental hospital authorities. While the Unions accept that the Hospital is not an approved "mental hospital authority" as defined by the Act, they submit that all of the duties carried out by the nurses are similar to those carried out by nurses in designated hospitals.
Having considered the views of both sides expressed in their oral and written submissions, the Court is of the view that the nurses involved in this claim do not qualify for the enhanced superannuation benefits as provided by the 1945 Act and furthermore, the Court does not see that there are grounds justifying the concession of such a claim.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
19th May, 2005______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Joanne O'Connor, Court Secretary.