ADJUDICATION OFFICER RECOMMENDATION
Adjudication Reference: ADJ-00015450
An Emergency Medical Technician
A Health Service Provider
Barnaba Dorda, SIPTU
Complaint/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: 20/02/2019
Workplace Relations Commission Adjudication Officer: Catherine Byrne
In accordance with Section 13 of the Industrial Relations Act 1969, this dispute was referred to me by the Director General. An enquiry at the WRC commenced on September 28th 2018, but the parties decided to make further efforts locally to resolve the issue. When no progress was made, the matter was referred back to me for adjudication and a hearing was scheduled for February 20th 2019. On behalf of the complainant, Mr Barnaba Dorda of SIPTU submitted a comprehensive claim in writing, setting out the details of the dispute between the complainant and his employer. Two senior managers attended for the respondent and they also submitted a detailed paper for consideration.
This complaint, under the Industrial Relations Act 1969, relates to a dispute between the complainant and his employer concerning the appropriate point on the pay scale for ambulance drivers that he was placed on when he commenced employment.
Summary of Complainant’s Case:
In 1982, the complainant joined the predecessor of the respondent organisation as an ambulance driver. Because he previously worked with Army Medical Corps as a paramedic / ambulance driver, he was not provided with any training at that time. However, he was placed on the lowest point of the pay scale, as if he was an untrained ambulance person.
When he joined in 1982, the complainant’s terms and conditions of employment were governed by an agreement concluded in 1978 which provided that new recruits were to be paid at the untrained rate and when their training was completed, they were to be placed on the first point of the trained pay scale. The complainant received no training, because his service and experience were recognised by his employer at the time. As a trained person, with experience in the defence forces, the complainant claims that he should have been placed on point 3 of the incremental pay scale from the date he commenced employment, and that he has suffered a loss of earnings as a result. This loss of earnings occurred between 1982 and 1990.
In 2005, when the HSE came into existence, the complainant was not aware that his previous experience and paramedic training should have been taken into account and that he should have been awarded an incremental credit when he joined in 1982. This went on for a number of years, until recently, when he learned that other colleagues who had served in the army were given credit for the years they worked there.
To resolve matters, the complainant submitted a grievance under the respondent’s grievance procedure. A resolution was not achieved as management were unwilling to concede to his claim. He said that he has no option at this point, but to refer to the matter to the WRC for adjudication.
The complainant’s case is that he should have been placed on point 3 of the incremental scale when he commenced employment. As a result, he should have progressed to the top of the scale in five years rather than seven. The fact that he was on a lower rate of pay affected his other remuneration such as weekend allowances, public holiday pay and overtime.
Having considered a number of factors in their submission, the complainant and his union representative argues that the difference in the rate of pay when the complainant should have been at the top of the pay scale in 1988 rather than 1990, is approximately €1.00 per hour. He is now seeking compensation for the loss of earnings between 1992 and 1990, when it is estimated that he worked in the region of 16,640 hours, not including overtime.
Summary of Respondent’s Case:
This claim stems from 2017 when a small number of individuals who previously worked as qualified paramedics in the defence forces had their pay increased in line with HSE terms and conditions. These increases were very confined and conditional on having spent time working as a qualified paramedic in the army or naval service.
Due to his length of service, the complainant has been on the maximum point on his pay scale since the 1980s. The complainant’s service, and indeed this issue related to increments, pre-dates the establishment of the current pay scale which came into existence in 1997. This “new” pay scale contained a retrospective element to account for productivity and qualifications. For this reason, the respondent was reluctant to examine a grievance related to a pay scale that pre-exists the current pay scale and which has no relevance to the current arrangement. They argued that the 1997 agreement addressed all collective pay issues and must be seen as a “Rubicon” that should not be traversed.
The management side referred to what they described as the “predominant” Labour Court decision on incremental pay for paramedics issued in December 2006. They argued that it is not possible to address an issue that occurred regarding a pay scale prior to the existence of the HSE in 2005. The complainant was on the maximum point of the ambulance personnel pay scale before the establishment of the HSE.
Management said that the claim presents a challenge for them to address, because the issue goes back so far and records are difficult to locate. Payroll records prior to the existence of the HSE are no longer available and other data has been destroyed in keeping with data protection legislation.
In conclusion, the management side submitted that the complainant has suffered no actual loss as he was correctly paid for many years prior to the 1997 national agreement on ambulance pay. On the date of this hearing, the complainant was just about to retire and it is the respondent’s case that he has suffered no loss of pensionable pay, as a result of the rule governing pensionable pay based on the best of three years out of 10. As the 1997 agreement was intended to address all outstanding matters related to pay scales, they argued that this claim should not be upheld.
Findings and Conclusions:
I have considered the submissions of both sides in relation to the validity or otherwise of the complainant’s case that he suffered a loss of earnings as a result of being placed on the lowest point on the incremental pay scale when he joined the organisation in 1982.
Clearly, this problem is considerably outside the standard time limit for submitting a grievance. As a result, it is difficult, if not impossible for the management side, or any one else, to determine the scale of the loss suffered by the complainant. It is apparent that he did suffer some loss between 1982 and 1990. It is also apparent that, when he reached the top point of the incremental scale in 1990, the loss ended, and it is therefore confined to those eight years and the difference in his hourly rate during that time-frame. I am satisfied that there is no disadvantage to the complainant’s pensionable pay as a result of this historic situation.
I note that an agreement was reached between SIPTU and the respondent organisation in 1997, which contained a provision that all pay scale anomalies were resolved with the establishment of a new pay scale at that time. I also accept however that the complainant said that he was not aware that he was on the incorrect point on the scale until around 2017.
Section 13 of the Industrial Relations Acts, 1969 requires that I make a recommendation in relation to the dispute.
At the hearing, it was apparent that both sides were open to a reasonable proposal that would resolve this issue for the complainant. I therefore recommend that the respondent pays the complainant a once-off lump sum of €6,000 as compensation for his loss of earnings between 1982 and 1990 and that he should accept this recommendation in full and final settlement of this past grievance.
Workplace Relations Commission Adjudication Officer: Catherine Byrne
Incremental pay scale