ADJUDICATION OFFICER RECOMMENDATION
Adjudication Reference: ADJ-00009407
Ms Joan Donegan, General Secretary, Irish Federation of University Teachers
Dispute Reference No.
Date of Receipt
Complaint seeking adjudication by the Workplace Relations Commission under section 13 of the Industrial Relations Act, 1969
Date of Adjudication Hearing: 12/12/2017
Workplace Relations Commission Adjudication Officer: Patsy Doyle
In accordance Section 13 of the Industrial Relations Acts 1969, following the referral of the dispute to me by the Director General, I inquired into the dispute and gave the parties an opportunity to be heard by me and to present to me any evidence relevant to the dispute.
This case involves an application for a National Fees Remission Scheme by a College Lecturer. The application was refused by the University on grounds of ineligibility under the Schemes criteria.
Summary of Claimant’s Case:
The Union outlined the claim on behalf of the claimant by way of written and oral submissions. The Claimant had sought access to the College Fees remission scheme on behalf of her daughter on 24 April, 2017 and had been denied access on grounds of ineligibility.
The Union gave a background to the Claimants employment at the University. She commenced work as a Temporary Assistant Lecturer on July 16, 1992 and secured permanency as a University Lecturer in October 1998. She has worked continuously at the University during this period.
The University have disputed the claimants start date as October 1, 1992, a date recorded in the Human Resource Dept. The university have outlined the commencement of the contractual relationship as October 1993.
The Union outlined the terms of a Conciliation Conference from November 1991 where the parameters of the Fee Remission Scheme were set out.
1 Not open to staff recruited after September 1992
2 Reciprocity across Irish Universities (NUI/TCD)
3 Temporary full time staff who are made permanent after continuous employment commencing before 30 September 1992 will be admitted
The Union submitted that the claimants service was aligned to a start date of July 1992 and submitted a copy of a Teaching Programme governing academic year 1992/1993 where the claimant was cited as teaching in 4 subjects. In addition, the claimant submitted two testimonials from Academic Chair and Head of Department which confirmed her presence in the University prior to the commencement of the “cut off “point of eligibility for the fees remission.
The Claimant expressed a deep sense of disappointment at being excluded from the scheme and submitted that she deserved to be included in the scheme in recognition of her continuous service reflective of the qualifying criteria in the Conciliation Agreement. Her Head of Department contended that she played an instrumental role in shaping the formation of certain key courses. She was clear that her application should be considered in line with her sole application for her only child. She told the hearing that expenditure on Course fees was causing her a high financial burden.
Summary of Employer’s Case:
The Employer disputed the claim and outlined the University’s difficulty in this regard by way of Oral and written submission. The Employer argued that the claim was outside the scope of the University’s fee Concession scheme and the relevant agreement notified on July 10, 1992
Only temporary full time staff, who were made permanent after continuous employment commencing before 30 September, 1992 are entitled to fee remission for their children
The Employer set out a comprehensive history of the evolution of the fees remission scheme which covered Children and Spouses of Full Time University Staff. The Employer exhibited the same Conciliation Conference record of January 10 1992, which confirmed that the scheme would be closed to applications from new staff recruited after 30 September, 1992.
The Employer presented a 2008 reminder issued by a Higher Authority aimed at re-affirming the 1992 Agreement.
The Employer submitted that the Claimant was employed as an hourly paid Tutor/Lecturer during the academic year 1992/1993. She was appointed as a Temporary full time College Lecturer dated October 1, 1993. The Claimant has progressed across the bar from July 1, 2003.
The Employer submitted that as the Claimant did not hold a full-time contract of employment with the University until October 1 1993, she does not fulfil the eligibility criteria for the Fee Remission Scheme in respect of children. He University does not have discretion to alter the application of the scheme, which it has always applied consistently amongst its staff. As the claim is outside the scope of the scheme, the University is not able to concede the claim.
Findings and Conclusions:
I have considered both submissions made in this case. I have also considered the documentation which accompanied the case.
I have studied the parameters attributed to the Fees Remission Scheme across all Irish Universities from January 1992. It is clear to me that it is a work-related bonus scheme with dwindling numbers of participants. I was unable to establish whether the scheme is governed by a defined national budget? I ascertained that the University did not hold a local discretion in the application of the scheme. The Union had an understanding that discretion ought to play a part in resolution of the dispute as discretion had assisted in relation to other similar Disputes.
I noted that neither party relied on contractual documentation or superannuation information in support of their arguments. In addition, neither Party presented contemporaneous records from pay roll in relation to tracking an official payment history for the claimant. For me, at least, this created a lot of uncertainty in seeking to establish merit in the dispute.
The Employer relied on the argument that the claimant was not able to demonstrate a pay link to Temporary Full Time Lecturer prior to the watershed date of September 30, 1992.The Official record stood at Oct 1 1993. The Claimant relied on two testimonials from fellow academics that placed her on the floor of the Department on a Full-time basis during July and August 1992, albeit paid out of the part time teaching budget on “an amount equivalent more or less to the full-time rate “. This arrangement translated to an end, reflective of the period.
These testimonials were not actively disputed by the Employer. I asked the claimant whether her 25-year history had been captured in any recognition awards at the University? The Claimant indicated that she had not been invited to the ceremony to mark Employees in service for 25 years.
I understand that the Fees Remission Scheme is of immediate importance to the claimant and her Family. she is clear that she has gone to work at the University for over 25 calendar years and believes that she has been wrongly excluded from this key scheme.
The Union drew the attention of the hearing to an offer made to the claimant to try another college Lectureship in another county in the Summer of 1992 and she chose to remain in her present University. This, for me places her firmly on the books of the University in the summer of 1992. I appreciate that this does not confirm her Full Time status. However, this appears to have been addressed in the Testimonial submitted by Professor A, the Head of Department in 1992. I have found it necessary to place an extract of this into this Report.
You would have been paid out of the part time teaching budget pro tem as these were the only funds available to us to cover the period until the start of the academic year but you would have been paid an amount equivalent to the full-time rate to allow you to prepare for the teaching in the Fall. No doubt, you will be able to get the confirmatory evidence from payroll.
I have established that Pay Roll have not been able to retrieve records for that period. I gather that there may have been an element of improvisation on paying the claimants salary in the Summer of 1992. However, this improvisation should not now compromise an uninterrupted employment record some 25.5 years later.
I have also been struck by the mobility incorporated into the scheme, whereby successful applicants can gain remission of fees in all the Universities in Ireland. It is highly relevant that the Claimants daughter is studying at the University where her Mother lectures. I accept the submission made by the claimant on her expectation of realising the Fees Remission Scheme but this was not fuelled by the University.
Taking everything into consideration, I have found that on the balance of probabilities, the Claimant served as Full Time Temporary staff member before 30 September, 1992 and was subsequently made permanent. Both these criteria should activate her entitlement to be considered for application of the Fees Remission Scheme on behalf of her Daughter.
I have found merit in this Dispute.
I note that the Fees Remission Scheme does not have an appeals mechanism incorporated in the document. It may be helpful to the parties to reflect on this.
Section 13 of the Industrial Relations Acts, 1969 requires that I make a recommendation in relation to the dispute.
I recommend that the parties immediately re-engage on the Claimants application for The Fees Remission scheme of 24 April, 2017, using the claimants realisation of the required criteria. The Claimant is being approved for the Fees Remission Scheme and all monies already paid by the Claimant should be refunded.
This recommendation is to be read as a Once Off Red circled arrangement due to the unique circumstances of the case presented to me at hearing. It has no precedent value.
Dated: 20th April 2018
Workplace Relations Commission Adjudication Officer: Patsy Doyle
Application for Fees Remission for Family Member.