The Labour Court says the HSE should hold to the arrangement on ‘jobs for life’ that it agreed to after abolishing the health boards, writes Gary Culliton
In a landmark move that has far-reaching consequences for the health service, the Labour Court has said that the Health Service Executive should acknowledge that a ‘jobs for life’ agreement reached with the IMPACT trade union on the abolition of the health boards in 2004 will continue to have full force, unless it is terminated in a deal reached between the parties.
The Court backed the union on key points, including the status of the 2004 agreement and its relationship with the recent Croke Park agreement on public sector pay and reform.
Recent industrial action by members of IMPACT has affected the HSE’s capacity to maintain effective financial management systems, the Labour Court found. The HSE had sought a derogation for financial data from the overall industrial action. However, IMPACT said it could not provide this until it received clarifications on the implications – particularly in relation to job security – of the Croke Park deal.
The Labour Court recommended that the union immediately stop any form of industrial action that is having the effect of “preventing or limiting the provision of key financial data to the HSE Board and its CEO and the Department of Health”. The IMPACT deal of 2004 is “intended to have legal effect”, the Labour Court found.
“The (2004) Framework Agreement is not time-bound and therefore will continue to have full force and effect unless and until it is terminated by agreement between the union and the HSE,” Chairman Kevin Duffy said.
The Croke Park deal has major consequences for the health service. According to a Health Service Redeployment protocol agreed at Croke Park, the required reorganisation will focus on:
l The introduction of an extended working day, covering the period 8am to 8pm (i.e. same contracted hours but different scheduled attendance patterns) for all grades in service locations where this is identified as needed to meet service requirements;
l The identification and implementation of all opportunities to centralise functional, transactional, support and other services at national level, including areas such as medical card and other scheme processing functions, payroll, procurement and purchasing;
l The introduction of new arrangements to support the delivery of services over an extended period up to and including 24/7 emergency services (i.e. same contracted hours but rostered differently) for all grades in service locations where this is identified as needed to meet service requirements;
l The implementation of the incentivised scheme for early retirement, the special career break scheme and the shorter working year scheme.
Certain provisions of the 2004 Framework Agreement will require adaptation, so as to render them compatible with the Croke Park deal. These include location, approach to change, structures, reporting relationships and shared services developments. Recruitment and selection procedures, employment ceilings and details concerning outsourcing will also have to be adapted.
The Croke Park deal, agreed between employers and unions, says the Government embargo on recruitment in the public service means there will be a greater need to redeploy staff.
The deal says voluntary redeployment is the preferred option in the first instance. Staff may be redeployed to a location within a 45 kilometre radius of their current work location or of their home address, whichever is the shorter commute. In some instances, due to the specialist nature of the post, redeployment options will be considered beyond these guideline distances.
The HSE is to outline likely job cuts in “areas of diminishing demand or positions which – due to financial constraints – face reconfiguration or closure”.
Where such areas are identified, all practical options available for employees will be explored, it has been decided. An employee’s existing pay and terms and conditions of employment will be protected if they participate in the redeployment scheme.
Appropriate training will be considered to equip the employee with the skills necessary for their new role. Where there are insufficient volunteers, management will be able to require staff to redeploy.
Staff will normally be selected on the basis of length of service, having regard to the skill-set requirement for the post.
While the Croke Park Health Protocol applies to all HSE employees and to health service employers funded by the HSE, certain regulated professions carry individual responsibility with regard to their competence to practise safely and effectively, while fulfilling their professional responsibility within their scope of practice.
The protocol will not impact on the normal management decisions to deploy/assign duties or staff as deemed appropriate, or temporary transfers due to emergencies.
The deal provides for multi-disciplinary working and reporting arrangements, in addition to existing intra professional clinical governance that extends beyond professional boundaries, particularly in community services.
Compliance with EWTD
Croke Park also provides for revised cross-cover arrangements and reductions in on-call tiers, particularly for NCHD grades, in relation to achieving compliance with the European Working Time Directive.