A dispute arose recently between HSE South – Waterford Regional Hospital and UNITE Trade Union over the payment of a “Twilight Hours” premium.

The evening shift for 22 Catering Attendants employed by the HSE in Waterford Regional Hospital was Outsourced to Agency Workers and, resulting from this, as of the 28th April 2013, the Twilight Hours premium ceased to be paid.

Management’s opinion was that it was unreasonable to expect payment for a shift that was no longer worked by the Catering Attendants, however, UNITE argued that, in accordance with Section 8: Service Delivery Options of the Public Service Agreement (PSA), their members should continue to receive the payment.

As the dispute could not be resolved at local level, it became the subject of a Conciliation Conference under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission. Agreement was not reached at this stage and, on 18th June 2013, the case was referred to the Labour Court in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990.

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A Labour Court Hearing took place on 15th April, 2014 where UNITE argued that the workers suffered reduced wages due to the outsourcing of the evening shift even though the PSA stated that such procurement would not result in a worsening of pay rates for employees.

The Union also argued that the payment should have continued on a personal-to-holder basis or, at the very least, compensation, calculated on the actual loss over a 12 month period beginning on the 29th April 2013, should be paid as per the PSA.

The HSE argued that it was forced to consider outsourcing as an option because the level of Catering Staff had diminished considerably and there was no alternative to this. The Employer argued that the decision was not taken lightly and its view was that the move did not worsen rates of pay as the “Twilight Hours” payment was a premium payment and the basic pay for the Catering Employees was not affected by the HSE’s decision to outsource the evening shift.

Management’s view was that the Haddington Road Agreement took precedence over the PSA and that compensation for loss of earnings should be paid to the employees for the 2 months from 29th April (when the payment ceased) to 1st July 2013, rather than 12 months as argued by UNITE.

The Court noted that the premium was no longer paid because the hours were no longer worked due to the decision to outsource. The loss was calculated as €1,430.00 per annum per Claimant and, after considering the submissions of both parties, the Court recommended that the issue be dealt with via the compensation formula provided for under the terms of the PSA 2010-2014. This meant that 50% of the identified loss should be paid with effect from 29th April with the remaining 50% payable 6 months later.

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