INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 2004
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
COBH GENERAL HOSPITAL
(REPRESENTED BY IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
IRISH NURSES ORGANISATION
Chairman: Ms Jenkinson
Employer Member: Mr Doherty
Worker Member: Mr O'Neill
1. Pension Scheme.
2. Cobh General Hospital is a voluntary independent hospital, which is community run and is not directly funded by the Health Service Executive (HSE) Southern Area (SA). It is operated by a Board of Management and currently has thirty-five employees, of whom seventeen are nurses. The dispute before the Court concerns a claim by the Union, on behalf of fourteen female nurses, for the introduction of a pension scheme in the hospital. The Union contends that all staff enjoy parity of pay and certain conditions with the HSE (SA), however, parity of pension status has been denied to them to date. The Union is seeking terms equivalent to the Public Service Pension retrospectively to the date of its original claim, July, 2001.
- Management contends that funding of the hospital is predominantly by way of an annual budget grant from the HSE (SA) and currently this is sufficient to cover hospital wages. Representation has been made to both the Department of Health and Children and the HSE (SA) for additional funds in order to implement a suitable Pension Scheme for staff at the hospital. The HSE Southern Area's response was that the hospital did not meet the entry requirements for the Superannuation Schemes administered by the Department of Health and Children and they would not be providing additional funding to the budget already in place.
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 16th February, 2006, in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. A Labour Court hearing took place on the 28th June, 2006.
3. 1. Section 4.1 of Sustaining Progress allows for the application of pension for workers. There is provision under Section 65 Health Act, 1953, to fund pensions (a) "A Health Authority may with the approval of the Minister give assistance in any one or more ways to any body which provided or proposes to provide a service similar or ancillary to a service which the Health Authority may provide. (b) By contributing to the expenses incurred by the body". The Service provided in Cobh is identical to all Community Nursing Units.
2. The continued absence of access to superannuation has proved a disincentive to recruitment and retention of nurses. The nurses currently involved in the claim may decide in the wake of continued rejection to return to work in the city where access to superannuation is readily available in all employments. Therefore, it is reasonable to contend that the future viability of the hospital is at stake.
4. 1. The Management of Cobh General Hospital has always recognised the genuine aspirations of its staff in its pursuit of a Pension Scheme similar to that of the Public Service and in all of its discussions with the Union, treated the matter in a sympathetic way. The fundamental problem for the Hospital has been that of funding such a scheme if it were introduced as it could not be funded directly from the Hospital's own resource.
2. The Hospital has been refused further funding and has no other means of raising funds to finance a Pension Scheme that would satisfy the aspirations of the Union. There are ongoing discussion regarding structural and management change at the hospital and there is the possibility of change.
The Union, on behalf of Nursing staff employed at the Hospital sought the introduction of a pension scheme with retrospective effect to the date originally claimed – 5th July 2001. The pension scheme sought by the Union is the Local Government Superannuation Scheme.
While Management were sympathetic to the Union’s claim, it stated that due to lack of funds it was unable to introduce a pension scheme at present. However, it referred to the ongoing discussions regarding future Governance/Management arrangement for the Hospital, which may result in significant structural and management changes for the Hospital involving the HSE. The Hospital believed that such changes could possibly address the Union’s claim.
The Union accepted that the outcome of these discussions had the potential to address its claim, however, it was concerned at the possible length of time it may take to conclude these discussions, particularly as some members of staff were close to retirement age.
The Court is of the view that it is common practice within the health service for employees to have a pension scheme and it is somewhat alarmed to be informed that nurses with in excess of 20 years service in the health sector have no occupational pension entitlements.
Under Section 17 of Sustaining Progress, the Social Partners agreed on the objective that all retired people should have adequate incomes and the agreement provides for appropriate measures to ensure the introduction of new occupational pension schemes where none exist.
The Court notes that management are working towards a solution to this difficulty and recommends that the discussions currently ongoing between the Hospital and the HSE, should be expedited and concluded as quickly as possible to arrive at a solution whereby the Union’s claim can be satisfied.
Furthermore, the Court recommends that in the event that the matter has not been resolved to the Union’s satisfaction at the conclusion of those discussions, the claim may be referred back to the Court for a definitive recommendation.
The Court so recommends.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
10th July 2006______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Joanne O'Connor, Court Secretary.