INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 2004
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
LIMERICK COUNTY COUNCIL
(REPRESENTED BY LIMERICK COUNTY COUNCIL)
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Mr McGee
Employer Member: Mr Pierce
Worker Member: Mr Nash
1. 1. Payment of Travel Allowance 2. Redeployment
2. In 2003, Limerick County Council sold its refuse collection service to a private operator. Following privatisation the employees concerned chose to take redundancy or be redeployed. Two issues remain unresolved as a result of the cessation of the refuse service. Drivers employed prior to 1985 received a travel allowance for travel from their home to their base on a daily basis. The Council contends that two employees, employed in 1997 and 2000, were inadvertently paid this allowance. The Council is now seeking to discontinue payment of the allowance. The Union's claim is that the payment of Travel Allowance should be retained on a red-circled basis by its members. The second issue before the Court concerns the redeployment to a temporary location of another member of staff who now wishes to remain in that location. The Council maintains that this location is overstaffed and that the worker concerned can no longer be accommodated there. The Council has offered three alternative locations and contends that this is reasonable and fair.
- 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 2nd March, 2005, in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. A Labour Court hearing took place on the 20th July, 2005, the earliest date suitable to the parties.
3. 1. The Union's position is that its members must retain the allowance in order to protect their earnings. It's members have already had their earnings eroded by the removal of a flexibility allowance and will not agree to a further reduction in pay. The members are not interested in another buy and will resist any attempt by the Council to remove the allowance.
2. As the redeployments were voluntary the worker concerned has expressed a preference to remain in his current location.The situation was of the Councils making when they decided to sell the refuse collection service. Agreement was reached on the basis that there would be no compulsory redundancies and/or relocations. The Union is therefore of the view that the Council must take responsibility for consequences of their decisions and allow the worker to remain relatively close to his home.
4. 1. The individuals concerned were employed post 1995 and were inadvertently paid the allowance. This was only discovered when the Council proceeded to withdraw from the refuse service. The payment of such an allowance is contrary to the Revenue Commissioners rules on the payment of travelling expenses/travel allowances. It can only be paid in respect of travel to and from the 'normal place of work'. The Revenue Commissioners have defined the 'normal place of work' as being the place where the employee normally performs the duties of the office or employment.
2. The Council has put forward what it believes to be three reasonable proposals for the redeployment, which provided the individual with a number of alternatives. The individual has chosen to reject these and to effectively select his own base for redeployment. This cannot be accepted by the Council whilst it sought to facilitate redeployment in so far as was possible it must also take into account the operational requirements of the Council.
The Court received written and oral presentations from the parties who subsequently agreed to enter into further local discussions on both issues.
The County-Council undertook to provide the Trade Union with documentary evidence from the Revenue Commissioners with regard to the travel issue.
The parties have met and it appears from the Trade Union that no documentary evidence has been provided in relation to the travel issue.
Both parties have requested that the Court proceed to make a recommendation on the two issues.
1.Payment of Travel Allowance
The County Council indicated that it had received written instructions from the Revenue Commissioners relating to the removal of the travel allowance, not just in respect of the refuse drivers but all other staff in receipt of same / similar allowances. However, no such correspondence has been provided to the Unions. In this regard, therefore, the Court recommends that the individuals retain their allowance until such time as the entirety of the issue is resolved in respect of all affected staff (in line with Revenue regulations).
On the matter of redeployment, the Court notes that certain assurances were given to employees on the Privatisation of the Refuse Service, namely that there would be no compulsory redundancies and / or relocations. It would seem to be a contradiction, therefore, if there were to be no compulsory redundancies but a form of compulsory relocation. In this instance, therefore, the Court recommends that the individual concerned should remain in his current location.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
5th January 2006______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Joanne O'Connor, Court Secretary.