INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 2004
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
CLARE COUNTY COUNCIL
(REPRESENTED BY LOCAL GOVERNMENT MANAGEMENT SERVICES BOARD)
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Ms Jenkinson
Employer Member: Mr Doherty
Worker Member: Mr O'Neill
1. Claim for payment of full retrospection on Benchmarking.
2. The Union is in dispute with Clare County Council in relation to a decision by the Local Government Performance Verification Group to approve payment of only 60% retrospection in the case of the Benchmarking award. The Council in accordance with a recommendation of the Secretary General of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government to the Local Authority PVG & Local Government has limited payments due to retained firefighters under Parallel Benchmarking. The payment is limited to 60% of increases due for the period January 2004 to October, 2005, and July, 2005 to October, 2005. The Council contends that the recommendation reflects the fact that no agreement was reached on a modernisation change agenda until October, 2005.
The Union is seeking that the firefighters concerned are paid the same level as their colleagues despite a 15 month delay.
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 1st March, 2006 in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. A Labour Court hearing took place on the 20th June, 2006.
3.1 The Union believes the Secretary General of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government erred significantly in his decision to only award 60% of the Benchmarking retrospection payments. In the Union's perusal of the Sustaining Progress Agreement they cannot find any reference to departmental empowerment in this regard.
2. The Union believes that he did not take due cognisance of the fact that the majority of Council's change agenda in Clare was not alone agreed but largely implemented in early 2004. Clare County Council's offer to pay all stations (6 in total) apart from Ennis in May 2005 whilst the rostering issue held up discussion in Ennis copperfastens the Union's view in this regard.
3. The Union contends that the positive recommendations of the Clare County Manager's letter of November, 2005 be taken on board and award full retrospection to the firefighers in Clare.
4. The Union wishes to build on and nurture the positive and harmonious industrial relations atmosphere that currently exists between management and employees.
5. Since the Agreement was reached on 17th October, 2005 it was implemented without delay and honoured in full by the Union.
4.1 The Council believes that if the procedures provided for under Sustaining Progress in terms of the correlation of payment due under SP and Parallel Benchmarking with delivering change are to be upheld it is not appropriate for full retrospection to be paid.
2. The Council has been seeking to reach agreement in relation to its modernisation change agenda from May 2004. However, no agreement was reached until October, 2005.
3. Under the terms of Sustaining Programme payment can only be made on the basis of verifiable co-operation with flexibility and ongoing change. This did not take place until October, 2005, 15 months after the main body of employees in the Council signed up to their own modernisation change agenda and 20 months after agreement had been reached at national level.
4. At all times the Union both locally and nationally were advised that the issue of retrospection would have to be examined due to failure to reach agreement. The Council are satisfied that the payment of 60% retrospection is appropriate given the approach by the Union to the process.
5. The payment of full retrospection would undermine the position of all other public sector employees who have accepted local modernisation change agenda without any delay.
6. There are a number of other groups within the wider public sector where no agreement has been reached to date in relation to local modernisation/change agenda. If the Union's claim was conceded it would undermine the position of Management who have advised that full retrospection payment cannot be made.
The case before the Court concerns the Union’s claim for full retrospection of the outstanding Benchmarking awards, which were due from 1st January 2004 and from 1st June 2005.
This issue arose when the Government Performance Verification Group approved only 60% of the retrospection to Retained Fire Fighters in Clare County Council on foot of a recommendation by the Secretary General of the Department of Environment & Local Government in his letter dated 14th December 2005. The reason given for the reduction to 60% was due to the failure of the Retained Fire Fighters to engage in meaningful discussions on the change and modernisation programmes until February 2005, with no final agreement until October 2005.
The Union submitted that while the final agreement may not have been achieved until October 2005, many of the items on the change and modernisation programme had already been accepted and implemented by the Retained Fire Fighters.
Management held that it would be inappropriate to pay full retrospection considering the delays in reaching an agreement and taking account of the industrial action, which the Retained Fire Fighters engaged in when they failed to participate in training courses.
Having considered the views of the parties expressed in their oral and written submissions, the Court concurs with the position laid down by the Secretary General of the Department of Environment & Local Government in his letter dated 14th December 2005 and accordingly does not recommend concession of the claim.
The Court so recommends.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
3rd July, 2006______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Jackie Byrne, Court Secretary.