INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 2004
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
- AND -
IRISH NURSES ORGANISATION
Chairman: Ms Jenkinson
Employer Member: Mr Grier
Worker Member: Ms Ni Mhurchu
1. Contractual issue-obligation for weekend working for Community Nurses.
2. The HSE West provides a weekend service to the population of Sligo and Leitrim in the community which consists of pre-planned essential care, so each nurse is aware of their weekend duties on Friday evening. During the week PHN's (Public Health Nurses) are allocated to specific areas, but the weekend service has been provided by registered general nurses.
In 2002 agreement was reached with CRGN's (Community Registered General Nurses) allowing them access to permanent posts. At this point many of these nurses opted to work solely on a Monday to Friday basis and this was accepted by the Employer.
In 2006 CRGN's were told that there was a requirement to provide an on-call service as part of their contract. This requirement was applied to all new PHN staff also. The Union wrote to the HSE regarding the contractual obligation in the PHN service to work weekends. The Employer responded that it was his understanding that the contract places an obligation on employees to undertake such weekend working when required.
The issue 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 7th February, 2007, in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act 1990. A Labour Court hearing took place on the 13th July, 2007.
3. 1. The Union maintain that HSE Management have unilaterally taken it upon themselves to alter contractual provisions for weekend working for CRGN grades. This is unreasonable and has the effect of unfairly varying the terms and conditions of work not just between grades but within a single grade.
2. The Union contend that the decision of the Employer to alter the contractual provisions for weekend work is inhibiting the potential recruitment of nurses to these posts.
3. The Union is prepared to re-engage with the HSE to discuss how best the issue of weekend working provision may be addressed.
4. 1.The Management position is that there are 28 staff that have contracts that oblige them to work weekends.
2. Management maintain that there is an increasing demand for PHN services at weekends and that staff who are rostered to work weekends are remunerated at the nationally agreed rates.
3. Management are willing to try and resolve the issue of weekend working at a local level.
The dispute before the Court concerned the question of whether or not Community Registered Nurses/Locum Public Health Nurses (PHN) in the Sligo/Leitrim area are contractually obliged to work at weekends.
HSE stated that it has an ongoing requirement for staff in the PHN department to work weekends; the duties carried out at weekends are pre-planned essential care and the standard national payment system for weekend working is paid.
Having examined the contract of employment for the grades, it is clear that these nurses have been contracted to work planned work programmes at weekends and paid at the agreed rates. However, the Court is of the view that to oblige the workers to work at weekends is not consistent with the nationally agreed arrangements for such grades.
According to the 1980 Department of Health SI00/38 revised arrangements regarding five day week for public health nurses which stipulates :
(a)A five day week Monday to Friday – Public health nurses to have first option on weekend work; where public health nurses opt out of weekend work temporary relief nurses may be employed…..(b)Payment for planned essential services at weekend to be a fixed payment ……..
The agreement seems to distinguish between (a) “planned essential services” and (b) “on call/stand by services outside of normal working hours”, which public health nurses are not required to provide, other than “emergency work” outside normal hours when a time off in lieu arrangement applies. The agreement states:
- “The introduction of a Monday to Friday five day week does not remove the general requirement that public health nurses may be required to attend to duties appropriate to their grade outside these hours in situations where alternative arrangements cannot be made.”
Having considered all aspects of this case, the Court concurs with the Union’s interpretation that Community Registered Nurses/Locum Public Health Nurses in the Sligo/Leitrim area are not obliged to provide aplanned“on-call service” at weekends over and above their contracted hours, Monday to Friday. They may opt to work a planned essential service at weekends paid at the agreed fixed rates.
The Union recognises that circumstances have changed since 1980 and there is now a greater requirement for planned cover to be provided at weekends and it is prepared to re-engage with the HSE on this issue.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
16th August, 2007______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Madelon Geoghegan, Court Secretary.