INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 2004
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Ms Jenkinson
Employer Member: Mr Grier
Worker Member: Ms Ni Mhurchu
1. Pay Parity.
2. Tosach is a regional support agency for projects funded through the Community Development Support Programmes. The issue in dispute concerns a claim by the Union for pay parity among three staff employed as Community Support workers. The Organisation was set up in 2000 and staff were recruited at different times after that date. Staff negotiated their salaries individually according to experience, qualifications etc. In 2004 Management initiated a move onto a public service recognised salary scale which would allow incremental credit for staff. The Union claims that all the staff are doing the same work and workers believed they were getting pay parity when the new pay scale was introduced in June, 2004. The Union believed that the three workers were placed on Point 6 of the salary scale. However, the Union claims that subsequently one worker was placed on Point 8 of the salary scale in late 2004. The Union claimed that two of the workers were, therefore, unfairly treated in that one worker reached the maximum of the salary scale faster and is claiming arrears due to the two other workers in the amounts of €1,000 and €3,500 respectively.Management 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 6th September, 2006 in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990.A Court hearing was held on the 11th January, 2007
3. 1. Management's agreement to introduce the public service recognised pay scale for all Community Support workers in 2004 indicated that it accepted workers' claims in relation to addressing internal and existing pay differences given that each of the three workers carried out the same job and commenced employment with Tosach all within an eight month period of each other. The fact that Management, a number of months later decided to move one employee two further points up the pay scale was not only a breach of bad faith but undermined the very integrity of what was previously done.
2. As far as the Union is aware the identical job description applies for all Community Support workers. The Union also understands that the employee who was moved from Point 6 to Point 8, thus creating a disparity and inequity within the pay structure was not asked to provide any additional change flexibility or take on additional responsibilities or workloads with regard to her function and indeed contract. Therefore, Management cannot justify this unilateral pay increase by any rational or objective criteria. The Union was not previously aware of any objective criteria used by Management in relation to the assimilation of workers onto the new scale.
3. Both the Claimants are now on the maximum of the salary scale which is enjoyed by the other employee who is being treated more favourably. However the two Claimants are seeking redress by the payment of back pay owed had they been treated in the same fashion as the other employee when she was moved to the top of the scale in late 2004.
4. 1. When staff were first recruited they were all on different salaries based on their experience and qualifications and when approaching the task of assimilating the staff onto the new salary scale Management used objective criteria when placing workers on a particular point of the scale. The criteria used were experience, qualifications and service.
2. The worker whom the Union is claiming was treated more favourably was recruited on a higher salary scale when she first joined the Organisation because of her experience and qualifications, therefore, it followed that she would be on a higher point on the new salary scale.
3. It was open at any time to individual staff members with a grievance to pursue the issue through the Company Grievance procedure which allows for all employment related issues to be dealt with. Despite specific letters inviting them to do this no grievance procedure was implemented and no wage claim was forthcoming. It was only at Conciliation in 2006 that it became apparent as to the exact nature of what the grievance was and which staff members were pursuing a wage claim. The Terms and Conditions of employment document provides for a review of salaries to take place on a regular basis to ensure fairness in respect of the application of the salary scale. A request was not received from any worker to review their salary pursuant to this term. Tosach is prepared, and has always been willing to appoint an independent person to assess the application of the objective salary criteria to the applicants herein. The Claimants have previously been invited to put in writing any issues they have in relation to their rate of pay so that these matters could be dealt with through internal procedures or through any other mechanism available.
The claim before the Court by the Union on behalf of two claimants employed as Community Development Support Workers is for parity of pay with a third worker also employed as a Community Development Support Worker. In 2004, when the workers were assimilated onto a new pay scale, the Union claims that the claimants, who were placed on point 6, were treated less favourably than the other employee for no apparent reason. The Union claim that all three employees should have been assimilated on to the same point on the scale - point 8.
This issue arose following an agreement that the Community Development Support Workers should be place on a recognised public sector salary scale. At the time management were engaging directly with staff on preparations for a tender for work with a government department. As a result of these local discussions it was agreed that the Senior Social Workers Scale would be the appropriate public sector scale to apply.
However, without consulting the Union or staff, management devised a set of criteria, based on qualifications, experience and length of service for assimilation onto the new scale. Up to the date of the Labour Court hearing, the Union was not aware of the criteria applied.
Having considered the submissions of the parties, and examined the criteria, it appears to the Court that the method of assimilation used was based on fair and reasonable criteria in the circumstances, as evidenced by the fact that one of the claimants was placed on point 7 of the scale (contrary to the position advanced by the Union as part of the claim).
The Court finds it unsatisfactory that there was no prior consultation on the establishment of these criteria and is of the view that this had led to some misunderstanding and a perception of unfairness. Therefore, the Court recommends that the gesture of goodwill payment offered at conciliation should be reinstated, implemented and accepted in resolution of this claim.
The Court so decides.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
16th January, 2007______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Tom O'Dea, Court Secretary.