INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 2004
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
HEALTH SERVICE EXECUTIVE MID-WESTERN AREA
- AND -
IRISH MUNICIPAL, PUBLIC AND CIVIL TRADE UNION
Chairman: Ms Jenkinson
Employer Member: Mr Murphy
Worker Member: Mr O'Neill
1. Claim for Upgrading/Single Handed Allowance.
2. The dispute before the Court concerns a claim by the Union on behalf of nine of its members, employed as Mental Health Social Workers, in the Mental Health Services in the Mid Western Area. This area covers Limerick, Clare and Tipperary. The Union is seeking an upgrade to Senior Level positions by way of the application of a “single-handed” allowance as per the Interim Report of the National Social Work Forum 2001. The Report stated that “ single handed posts should not be confined to the hospital sector but should apply to certain other specialised posts within the health agencies.” The Union contends that this should apply to the Mental Health Sector and that the members involved in the claim all meet the criteria set down for upgrading in terms of experience, qualifications and the individuals work without direct supervision.
- The Health Service Executive rejects the claim on the basis that the Social Workers are part of a multi-disciplinary team lead by Consultants and the overall coordination and management of the social work service rests with the Principal Social Worker and therefore they are not 'single handed’ positions and do not fall as per the Interim Report of the National Social Work Forum.
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 22nd February, 2006, in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. A Labour Court hearing took place on the 11th October, 2006.
3. 1. The Mental Health Social Workers qualify under the relevant criteria in that they have three years' post-qualification experience, work in a specialised area and work single-handedly. The Social Workers in Mental Health have their own case loads and have the responsibility of making decisions single-handedly within the team in relation to the social work area. They are not assigned case loads by nor report decisions made back to the Principal Social Worker.
2. Social Workers in Mental Health services in other part of the country have been paid the ‘single-handed allowance’. With the new Health Service Executive as a single employer it is not reasonable to expect Social Workers in Mental Health to carry out comparable work on less pay than their colleagues in other country locations. This is clearly an anomaly situation and requires urgent rectification.
4. 1. The posts in question are not “single-handed” posts but are in fact Social Work posts assigned to various teams reporting to and supervised by Principal Social Workers in Limerick, Clare and Tipperary NR. Overall coordination and management of the Social Work Service rests with the Principal Social Worker and the therefore question of upgrading to senior positions in line with the Interim Report in view of their ‘single-handed’ status does not arise.
2. The grade of Senior Social Worker no longer exists. There are now only Senior Social Work Practitioners which are entirely different and irrelevant to the claim.
The case before the Court concerns the Union’s dispute re the non-application of a “single-handed allowance” to professionally qualified Social Workers in the Mental Health area based in the Mid-Western region. The Union submitted that as these workers have overall responsibility for managing their own caseloads without supervision the allowance should be paid in accordance with the agreement reached under the National Social Work Forum in May, 2001.
The Health Services Executive rejected the claim on the basis that the Social Workers do not meet the criteria set down for the payment of the allowance/upgrading because they work as part of a multi-disciplinary team and cannot be regarded as working in isolation or “single-handedly”.
Having considered the oral and written submissions of both parties and having examined the job description for the Claimants, the Court is not satisfied that they meet the criteria required to qualify for payment of the allowance. The job description states,inter alia, that a Social Worker is required to:
- “work under the direction of the Principal Social Worker/Consultant”, “provide a direct social work service…. this involves participation as a member of the multidisciplinary team in the treatment of patients… reporting to the Consultant Psychiatrist in charge”.
Therefore, the Court is of the view that there is no validity to this claim as presented.
However, details of the circumstances prevailing in other regions were discussed by the parties at the hearing; Some of those regions apply the allowance to professionally qualified Social Workers in the Mental Health area. Furthermore, the Court was made aware that there are other claims for other regions in the pipeline.
It appears to the Court that direct comparisons with other regions are difficult due to the different structures that seem to apply. Therefore, the Court is of the view that the appropriate level to address this issue is at national level and accordingly recommends that the Union should pursue this issue at national level in order that a uniform assessment may be conducted to clarify the situation.
The Court so recommends.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
9th November, 2006______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Joanne O'Connor, Court Secretary.