INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 2004
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
ASSOCIATION OF AGRICULTURAL/HORTICULTURAL COLLEGES - TEAGASC
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
IRISH MUNICIPAL, PUBLIC AND CIVIL TRADE UNION
Chairman: Ms Jenkinson
Employer Member: Mr Grier
Worker Member: Mr Nash
1. Claim for a review of grading and terms and conditions of Technicians.
2. The dispute relates to the Union's claim, on behalf of technicians employed in Teagasc and Private Agricultural and Horticultural Colleges, for a review of their grading terms and conditions of employment with a view to achieving a new career structure for these workers. The claimants provide a comprehensive range of horticulture and agriculture education to agricultural students. The Union states that the last review (McLoughlin) took place in 1993 and that the significant changes which have occurred since that time warrant a review. The Employers rejected the claim. The dispute was referred to the Labour Relations Commission. A conciliation conference was held but agreement was not reached. The dispute was referred to the Labour Court on the 15th December, 2005 in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. A Court hearing was held on the 29th June, 2006, the earliest date suitable to the parties.
3. 1. Given the level of changes which have taken place both internally within Teagasc and externally with particular regard to the qualitative level of duties and functions carried out by the claimants, any independent objective assessment would certainly recommend improvements to their pay and conditions of employment. With regard to the technicians in the Private Agricultural Colleges the area of expertise, responsibility and value of work has increased considerably since the McLoughlin Report in 1993.
2. The claim is not debarred under the terms of the SP Agreement. The Union is not aware of any clause in SP which unilaterally excludes such an evaluation/review as sought by the Union.
3. There have been many examples where public sector funded employers have agreed evaluations/independent reviews with regard to the pay and terms and conditions of employment of workers.
4. The Employers have argued that the claimants have received the MLTA award, Benchmarking and SP. However, given the level of grading with regard to the claimants (i.e. they only share pay parity with the first bottom two grades in the Teagasc research structure and, therefore, achieves awards under MLTA and Benchmarking on the lower end), all of the other groups who have had evaluations were in receipt of Benchmarking and SP also.
5. There are clear and distinct problems with regard to existing structures, for example, the claimants are graded under Grade 1, 2 and 3. Grade 1 is the equivalent of Teagasc Entry Grade, Grade 2 and 3 form Point 1-7 and Point 8-14 of the Career Grade in Teagasc respectively. Within Teagasc there is automatic progression from Entry to Career and seamless movement from the minimum to the maximum. Therefore, the equivalent Teagasc research technician has access from Point 1 in the Entry scale to the maximum of Career Grade without having to achieve promotion. The claimants have no clear automatic progression from Grades 1, 2 and 3 and the maximum of Grade 3 does not reflect the relative value of the work carried out by the claimants, hence the requirement for an evaluation/review.
4. 1. The grading structure and pay rates for the claimants were agreed in 1995 in Private Colleges and 2000 in Teagasc Colleges. Subsequently the claimants have benefitted from pay increases arising from MLTA Award and Benchmarking. Management does not accept that productivity and /or cooperation with ongoing change has exceeded what could be expected in return for these substantial pay increases.
2. The Employers are fully satisfied that the findings by the IPA in 1995, accepted by both sides, that the College Technician post is 'reasonably comparable with those of Career Grade Technicians ' is fully valid and reflected in the current agreed structure. Less than one third of courses that are provided by colleges are at third level. The majority of courses are vocational and the only significant differences is that in 1995 when IPA concluded its examination, all of the courses would have been vocational. In the Employers' view this does not provide a basis for a review of the current grading and pay structure.
3. Technicians are at a higher grade than would be justified by the agreed structure. This arises from the provision of the respective agreements that currently serving Grade 1's would be advanced to Grade 2 on a personal basis. This acceptance by Management of a 'surplus' number of Grade 2 Technicians was based on the understanding that over the next number of years, the structure as agreed would be implemented through normal retirements etc. The Employers have yet to see cost savings accruing from the 1995 and 2000 deals while staff have received all the benefits in full. The current claim is an attempt to prevent the full implementation of the agreement on the Technician staffing structure in colleges.
4. The claim would be debarred under Sustaining Progress if it proved to be cost increasing.
The issue before the Court concerns the Unions’ claim for a review of grading and terms and conditions of Technicians employed by both the Teagasc Colleges, Private Agricultural/Horticultural Colleges and for 6 Technicians who transferred from private Agricultural/Horticultural colleges to Teagasc. The Union stated that this review is necessary in order to achieve a new career structure for the Technicians involved.
In 1995 a structure was agreed between the parties in the case of the Private Colleges. Whereas, in the case of Teagasc College Technicians a new structure was introduced following a review carried out in 2000, which had retrospective application to 1997.
Both of these agreements provided for the following staffing structure in each of the colleges:
-Where four or less Technicians are employed in a College, there will be one Grade 2 post and the remainder will be at Grade 1.
-Where four or more Technicians are employed in a College, there will be one Grade 3 post and one Grade 2 post and the remainder will be at Grade 1.
These agreements resulted in 23 Technicians being placed on a personal to holder basis at a higher grade than would be justified by the agreed structure – current serving Grade 1’s were advanced to Grade 2 on a personal basis. Management maintained that the Union’s claim for a review would be for the purpose of agreeing how a promotional structure might be provided for the staff being retained in those grades on a personal basis.
The Unions sought to have this agreed structure revaluated on the basis of the changes, which have taken place both internally within Teagasc and externally with regard to the qualitative level of the duties, and functions carried out by the Technicians.
Management stated that the Technicians concerned have benefited from pay increases arising from the Medical Laboratories Technicians Award and also from Benchmarking. It also submitted that this claim is precluded by the terms of Sustaining Progress as a cost-increasing claim.
Having considered the views of the parties expressed in their oral and written submissions, the Court notes that one of the difficulties highlighted by the Union, is the lack of promotional opportunities for the Technicians concerned.
In the circumstances of this case the Court is of the view that an independent review of the grading and terms and conditions of the grades at issue should be carried out and recommends accordingly.
It should be understood by the parties that this review does not imply any commitment to any adjustment in rates of pay for the grades in question. It should also be understood that the implementation of any findings of the review would be subject to the terms of all relevant national agreements and to the integrity of the any future Benchmarking process.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
13th July, 2006______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Tom O'Dea, Court Secretary.