INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
GALWAY UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Mr Hayes
Employer Member: Ms Cryan
Worker Member: Ms Tanham
1. Claim for 37.5 hour working week.
2. This case concerns a Staff Nurse employed in the Clinical Services Sterile Department (CSSD) of Galway University Hospital who is in dispute in relation to his contracted weekly hours of work. An agreement was concluded in 2007 which reduced the weekly working hours of Nursing staff to 37.5 per week. The claimant in this case is seeking to have that agreement and the subsequent reduction in weekly working hours applied to him.
Management's position is that the reduction in working hours agreement only applied to those directly employed on nursing duties. It further contends that budgetry constraints make it impossible to consider reducing the hours as it would represent a significant cost to the employer and lead to repercussive claims from other nurses.
The dispute was not 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 matter was referred to the Labour Court on 26th May, 2010 in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. A Labour Court hearing took place on 19th October, 2011 the earliest date suitable to the parties.
3 1 The Claimant is the only Staff Nurse in the Country who is assigned to CSSD duties and who works 39 hours per week. The comparator at Merlin Park hospital works 37.5 hours per week and other CSSD staff in other hospitals, depending on their grade, work as little as 35 hours per week.
2 This dispute could be resolved by exploring the possibilities of reducing the working hours on a cost neutral basis. Management has not considered any such options and has failed to adequately engage with the Union to resolve the issue in dispute.
4 1 The Agreement previously concluded which reduced the weekly working hours of Nursing staff to 37.5 specifically applied to those directly employed on nursing duties. As the Claimant is not within that category, he does not come under the terms of the Agreement.
2 The Claim is cost increasing and unsustainable. If management were to concede the reduction, there would be an increase in costs as well as repercussive claims form other staff involved in similar duties.
The Court notes that there are no standard terms and conditions of employment in place in the CSSD service within the HSE. The Court also notes that the applicant in this case was appointed in 2004 on the "CNMII Grade." At that time the hours of work for all staff in the Department was 39 hours per week. Since then several staff have been appointed on that basis.
The Applicant contends that, as part of an agreement with nursing unions, the hours of work of the CNMII Grade were reduced to 37.5 hours per week. He seeks to have these terms applied to him. The Hospital contends that he is not employed on nursing duties and, accordingly, does not come within the scope and intent of that agreement.
The Court finds that there is merit in the positions advanced by both parties. The Court is persuaded that the effect of reducing the Applicants hours to 37.5 would be extremely disruptive to the department and give rise to inevitable consequential claims. However, the Court is satisfied that the Applicant was appointed to the post on the terms and conditions of employment that apply to the CNMII Grade, that these have changed and that it is understandable that he would expect to be given the opportunity to avail of these changes.
The Court is of the view that the current inconsistency in terms and conditions of employment within the CSSD service is not sustainable.
The Court recommends that steps be taken to standardise the hours of work of all CSSD staff within the terms of the Public Service Agreement and that this claim be addressed in that context.
The Court so recommends.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
8th November, 2011.______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Andrew Heavey, Court Secretary.