The Labour Court has backed IMPACT’s interpretation of a Court recommendation, which effectively blocks Roscommon County Council management from making sweeping cuts to staff flexitime provisions.
Management triggered industrial action in the county on Tuesday by unilaterally cutting the amount of flexi-leave staff could accrue, on the basis of its mistaken interpretation of a clarification they received from the Court. Now the Court has written to the parties to say that its ruling did not sanction cuts in flexi-leave accrual.
The development came as representatives of IMPACT’s Roscommon branch attended the union’s local government conference in Donegal, where delegates heard expert Camille Loftus criticise local authorities’ “lamentable record” in implementing flexitime and other family friendly policies.
IMPACT says flexitime mostly helps low paid women workers with childcare commitments by allowing them work up time, which that can later be taken as leave or flexible working.
But council management has gutted scheme by cutting the number of available days from 13 to two, reducing the amount of worked-up time that can be carried over from month to month, and taking control of the scheme away from line managers who understand local service needs.
The Labour Court has now contradicted management’s interpretation of its recommendation by saying that it had only ruled on opening times and a flexitime bandwidth – not on the issues of accruing flexitime or taking flexi-leave, which are in dispute.
Since Tuesday (9th May) 150 staff have been taking limited industrial action – refusing to answer phones at certain times and halting work outside working hours – in a bid to win back their rights, which generate no net cost to taxpayers or service users.
Local IMPACT official Padraig Mulligan said the union would call off the action if management returned to the status quo pending talks, but warned that things could escalate if management refused to engage in talks, as has been recommended by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).
“Management has taken the ‘flexi’ out of flexitime, and relegated Roscommon to the lowest league of family-friendly services. This scheme has been in place for 17 year and staff have built their lives, and those of their families, around it. This is an attack on working parents that will not be tolerated by IMPACT or its members.
“Progressive councils know that good flexitime systems cost nothing and improve services through higher productivity, better staff morale, and fewer sick days. It also works for staff, especially low-paid women with high childcare costs. Staff and their union, IMPACT, will continue to resist Roscommon’s Neanderthal mismanagement, and the latest Labour Court clarification is a boost to our campaign,” he said.