INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 2004
SECTION 13(9), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1969
CLARE COUNTY COUNCIL
(REPRESENTED BY LGMSB)
- AND -
(REPRESENTED BY SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION)
Chairman: Ms Jenkinson
Employer Member: Mr Grier
Worker Member: Ms Ni Mhurchu
1. Appeal against Rights Commissioner's Recommendation Ir-38033/05/MR.
2. The worker qualified as a Chemical Engineer and joined the Council as Assistant Fire Officer (Prevention) in January 2002. In September, 2002, she was promoted to Assistant Chief Fire Officer (Prevention). The Union claims that changes in management in 2003 and 2004 led to a deterioration in her working conditions. As a result the worker went on sick leave in July, 2004. The Council met with the worker and her representative in August and October, 2004, and discussions took place in relation to her post and clarification of her duties. However, the Council claims that in November, 2004, the worker raised an issue of bullying in the workplace. An investigation team was appointed in early 2005 and issued its report in May, 2005. The investigation found that the claims were not founded based on the information available. The worker raised issues regarding the report and the case was referred to a Rights Commissioner. (At approximately the same time the worker moved jobs into another area (Health and Safety) although it meant a lower salary and position within the local authority structure). The Rights Commissioner's recommendation was as follows:
"Accordingly, I recommend that Clare County Council should now agree, on a once-off and without precedent basis, to pay the worker an ex gratia lump sum of €5,000 as a gesture of goodwill, as above. For her part, the worker should accept this payment in full and final payment of this dispute."
(The worker was named in the above recommendation.)
The Council appealed against the recommendation on the 18th of September, 2006, in accordance with Section 13(9) on the Industrial Relation Act, 1969. A Labour Court hearing took place on the 10th of July, 2007.
3. 1 The Council initiated a swift, detailed and comprehensive investigation in accordance with its Dignity at Work Policy. The worker was afforded every opportunity to put forward her case.
2. The Council is satisfied that the report of the investigating team was clear and coherent based on the evidence presented at the hearing.
3. The Right Commissioner's recommendation is flawed in that it is not evident from the report that the Council contributed to the difficulties experienced by the worker.
4. The Council has offered to assimilate the worker onto the Executive Engineer scale which she was on prior to moving to her current Health and Safety position.
4. 1. The worker was badly treated in her time in the Fire Service (the Union supplied details to the Court). The Rights Commissioner was quite clear that the Council had contributed to the difficulties experienced by the worker in 2003 and 2004 and made his recommendation for compensation accordingly.
2. The worker was prepared to accept the Rights Commissioner's recommendation to bring finality to the dispute.
The case before the Court concerns Clare County Council’s appeal of Rights Commissioner’s Recommendation No IR38033-05-MR. The claim before the Rights Commissioner concerned an investigation carried out by an external team of investigators into complainants made by the worker against Clare County Council management.
The investigation found that the allegations of bullying were not substantiated; it recognised that work-related difficulties had occurred which caused upset and distress for both parties and made a number of recommendations to improve the working relationship between the parties.
The Rights Commissioner was satisfied from his examination of the case that the investigation and conclusions reached were reasonable in the circumstances and decided to recommend a gesture of goodwill payment of €5000 to the worker, on a once-off, without precedent basis, in full and final settlement of the case.
The County Council expressed its view that the recommended sanction of €5,000 was severe and disproportionate in the circumstances.
Prior to the Rights Commissioner hearing the worker moved position within the organisation to a Health and Safety post. She accepted this position on a lower salary grade i.e. Administrative Officer Scale, and as she was anxious for matters to be brought to finality she submitted her claim to the Rights Commissioner. The worker did not appeal the Recommendation.
At the hearing of the appeal Clare County Council stated to the Court that while it had difficulties with the Rights Commissioner’s recommendation it was also anxious to move matters along for the future and, therefore, it offered to transfer the worker onto the salary scale appropriate to the position she held prior to her Health and Safety post i.e. Executive Engineer Scale. This offer was unacceptable to the worker and was accordingly declined.
Having considered all aspects of this case, the Court is of the view that the County Council’s offer was a genuine attempt made to bring finality to the matter.
In the circumstances of this case, the Court does not find reason to disagree with the findings and conclusions of the Rights Commissioner and, consequently, upholds his Recommendation.
The Court so decides.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
13th August, 2007______________________
Enquiries concerning this Decision should be addressed to Ciaran O'Neill, Court Secretary.