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Marine Institute Labour Court Recommendation

(03 Aug 2007)




- AND -


Chairman: Mr McGee
Employer Member: Mr Doherty
Worker Member: Mr Nash

1. Relocation expenses.

2. The dispute involves 45 claimants in Scientific, Technical and Clerical grades working for the Marine Institute in Galway. They are seeking payment of relocation expenses as a consequence of the Institute's Head Office transfer/move from Abbotstown, Dublin to Galway. The Union is seeking compensation of €7,500 plus a once off 10 days' additional annual leave per person. The Marine Institute rejected the claim stating that the claimants were not forced to relocate to Galway but volunteered to do so. Management stated that they were instructed by their funding department, the Department of Marine and Natural Resources and by the Department of Finance that no funding was available for such a claim.

The dispute could not be resolved at local level and was the subject of a Conciliation Conference under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission. As agreement was not reached, the dispute was referred to the Labour Court on the 19th April, 2006 in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. A Labour Court hearing took place on the 25th July, 2007.

3. 1. The move to Oranmore was voluntary and would not have taken place without the agreement and co-operation of staff and the commitment from the official side to 'make every effort to achieve retrospection of an inducement package.'

2. An arbitration process for the other State Laboratories affected by the Abbotstown decision resulted in a positive outcome. There is a compelling argument for seeking a pro-rata application of the State Laboratories Arbitrator Award. They all shared the one site and responded to the same Governmental decision. The Union expects this to be applied pro-rata to its members.

4.1 The Institute is precluded by explicit government policy from conceding this claim. The concession of this claim would have serious repercussions throughout the public service. As the move was voluntary, any concession of this claim would have potential repercussions for the decentralisation moves (about 10,900 people are due to move) which are also voluntary.

2. The relocation of the Institute was carried out on a voluntary basis and all options to assist and facilitate staff were explored, agreed in advance and put in place. The move was agreed by the parties to this dispute and that agreement did not envisage or allow for the payment of relocation compensation.

3. The Union's claim is unjustified in the circumstances. The claimants have suffered no detriment for which compensation is warranted and it could be argued that they benefit from the new state of the art facilities available to them in Galway.

4. The Collective Agreement precludes relocation expenses outside of an award in the context of general decentralisation; its terms were generous and were agreed by staff.

The Court has considered the oral and written presentations made by the parties.

The Court is satisfied that the move to Oranmore clearly arose some time prior to the Government's decentralisation plan announced in 2003. This move to Galway was mooted in 2000 and discussions took place during 2001. A decision was taken to relocate the Institute and participation was voluntary, although this presented a career dilemma to some specialist staff.

While the Court accepts that a relocation inducement package was discussed both in the context of such a package being conditional on approval, and of such a package emerging in the context of general decentralisation, there was, in the view of the Court, a general level of sympathy expressed, in particular in August 2001, in a communication from the Institute to local representatives. The relevant passage reads:-

"You are aware that the DoF have refused all approaches from the Marine Institute, DoMNR and the Minister for the provision of relocation/removal expenses, as per public sector norms, in the context of the current MI relocation to Galway and the broader decentralisation process for government services.

Furthermore, you are aware that the MI management and Board, DoMNR and Minister have been fully supportive of the application of such relocation expenses but none of us are in a position to offer same in light of the DoF position."

In the Court's view, this was reflective of a sympathetic approach to the matter and distinguishes this process from the General Decentralisation Policy announced in December 2003.

The Court's view, however, is also that this case is not the same as or similar to those quoted by the Union in the State Laboratory and Teagasc.

Taking all of the above into account, the Court recommends, in the unique circumstances of this particular case, that a once-off ex-gratia compensation payment of €3,750 should be made to each of the claimants.

Signed on behalf of the Labour Court

Raymond McGee
3rd_August, 2007 ______________________
JB/ MG. Deputy Chairman


Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Madelon Geoghegan, Court Secretary.


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Association of Higher Civil and Public Servants