INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 2004
SECTION 20(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1969
ST. VINCENT'S PRIVATE HOSPITAL
(REPRESENTED BY IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
(REPRESENTED BY IRISH NURSES ORGANISATION)
Chairman: Ms Jenkinson
Employer Member: Mr Doherty
Worker Member: Ms Ni Mhurchu
1. Alleged breach of the Hospital's Staff car-parking policy and procedure.
2. In June, 2003, the Hospital introduced car-parking fees/procedures for employees, and subsequently months two further car-parking procedures were introduced. All three documents state that "no refunds will be given". Staff can purchase three different passes - 90 days for €50, up to 130 days for €100 and up to 365 for €200. The pass runs from 1st of January to 31st of December each year and staff are required to purchase a new pass in October/November of the preceding year.
In November, 2005, the worker concerned raised the issue of unused credit with management. (A second worker also raised the same issue.) She was informed that all remaining credit would be forfeited from the end of December. The Union claims that in previous years staff had been allowed to carry forward unused credit, something that the Hospital strongly denies.
The dispute was referred to the Labour Court on the 25th of April, 2006, in accordance with Section 20(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1969. A Labour Court hearing took place on the 1st of August, 2006.
3. 1. Whilst it is accepted that the policy states that no credit would be given it was the practice in the Hospital to allow credit to be carried forward.
2. The Hospital is being unreasonable in expecting claimants to pay for the same parking on the double.
3. The worker's pass showed that she carried credit forward previous to 2005.
4. 1. The Hospital applied the policy in the fairest way possible. All staff members were briefed on the policy at staff meetings. Only two workers out of 520 have made a claim.
2. The November, 2005, policy clearly states"No transfer of days can be made from one year to another". This has always been the Hospital's policy.
3. It is not possible to allow carry-over of car parking credit as it would be difficult and costly.
The claim before the Court relates to the Hospital’s car-parking policy. The Union claimed that by refusing to allow a named member of staff carry forward credit on car-parking charges that the Hospital was in breach of its own procedures. On behalf of the claimant the Union sought the restoration of a previous practice whereby members of staff had a facility to top-up existing credit and/or carry forward unused credit. In support of its contention, the Union referred to the fact that the system logged any unused credit.
The Hospital emphatically denied that the practice referred to by the Union had in fact been a practice; it stated that the car-parking policy was based on an annual charge, whereby a member of staff could avail of parking depending on their needs for the year. The Hospital produced copies of the policies, which operated since the system was initiated in mid-2003; these policies made no mention of topping up, or of unused credit, however, they did state that no refunds would be given. Since November 2005 the policy has made it clear that unused days are non-transferable from one year to the next.
Having examined the submissions of both sides, the Court is satisfied that the Hospital’s policy clearly allows staff to avail of car-parking facilities for a period of one year at a time, and leaves the option on the number of daily passes required entirely at the discretion of the staff member. The policy does not provide for or infer in any way that unused credit may be transferred from one year to the next. The system is designed to work on an annual basis with the member of staff making a selection at one point in the year without any recourse to either a refund, carry forward of unused credit or a change of option.
The Court is of the view that no evidence has been advanced to show that the Hospital was in breach of its policy; the Court does not accept that a practice of topping up existing credit and/or carrying forward of unused credit has been established. The Court is satisfied that the system as operated by the Hospital is in compliance with its stated policy.
Consequently, the Court finds no basis to recommends in favour of the claim made on behalf of the named worker and, therefore, the claim fails.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
3rd August, 2006______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Ciaran O'Neill, Court Secretary.