Labour Court introduces minimum 34-hour working week in local authorities

10th September 2012

The Labour Court today ruled that a minimum 34-hour full-time working week will be introduced for certain local authority grades from March 2013. The binding ruling curtails management proposals for an immediate move to a 35-hour week, but will see over 5,000 staff working some additional time from next year.

The ruling will affect over 5,000 IMPACT members in clerical, administrative, engineering, technical and related grades. They will see their working time increase by between 15 and 65 minutes a week – or between three and 13 minutes a day – depending on their current hours. Jobsharers and part-time staff in authorities where full-time staff currently work less than 34 hours a week will see their hours increased pro-rata.

Another 5,000 members in the grades, who already work 35 hours a week, will see no change in their hours. Neither will others, including general operatives represented by IMPACT, who currently work a 39-hour week.

The changes will see a total of over 3,000 extra hours worked each week across 11 local authorities – a significant productivity improvement under the Croke Park agreement, which also protects staff against compulsory redundancies and further pay cuts. In addition, the new arrangement will introduce a 35-hour week for any staff newly appointed to the grades or promoted into them.

The Labour Court made its recommendation almost three weeks after it examined the arguments from management and unions on 23rd August. IMPACT representatives criticised management proposals for a 35-hour working week. Last year, management proposed that, although the Croke Park agreement contains no provision to increase working hours for these grades, a 35-hour week could be introduced under general efficiency clauses in the agreement.

IMPACT disputed this and took the matter to the Labour Relations Commission (LRC) and Labour Court.  The union acknowledged that there was a Croke Park commitment to standardise working hours across local authorities over time, but argued that the agreement did not envisage the imposition of increased working hours for existing staff.

The union also highlighted huge productivity increases and payroll savings delivered by local authority workers in recent years. The sector has seen the biggest proportion of staff cuts in the public service since 2008, with numbers falling by 18.4%, or 6,432 workers.

A recent report by the Croke Park implementation body said Local authority staff had delivered total payroll and non-pay savings of almost €120 million in the second year of the Croke Park agreement, a figure expected to rise to almost €133 million a year when non-payroll initiatives are fully implemented.  Non-pay savings were achieved in local councils through higher productivity, enhanced shared services, integration of services, the development of online services, reduced travel costs, and more effective procurement and purchasing with the development of national and regional procurement networks.

The Labour Court, whose recommendations are binding on matters related to the Croke Park agreement, noted that local authority management did not intend to extend public opening hours on foot of its proposed increase in working hours.

Read IMPACT’s frequently-asked questions document HERE.

Read the full Labour Court recommendation HERE.