Courts

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Cleaners singing in the rain after court bid to keep €2,000 allowance

Gordon Deegan

Published 20/03/2014|02:30

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Workers will keep their allowance for working in bad weather
Workers will keep their allowance for working in bad weather

A GROUP of low-paid council cleaners have successfully fought off attempts to abolish their 'working in the rain' allowance – worth €2,000 a year.

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The Labour Court has dismissed attempts by one of the country's largest local authorities, South Dublin County Council, to have a 'working in the rain' allowance abolished for 27 outdoor workers at the local authority.

SIPTU Industrial organiser Brendan O'Brien described the Labour Court ruling as "a significant victory".

Mr O'Brien said that the outdoor general operatives, based in the council's Public Realm Division, "are very relieved by the ruling as this has been hanging over them for the past couple of years".

He said that the 'working in the rain' allowance was worth around €50 a week to each individual worker, representing around 10pc of the weekly pay of €400 to €500 for the workers in question.

The overall amount received by the 27 workers for the allowance each year totals €56,160, or €2,080 each.

ARGUMENT

In its argument before the Labour Court, the council argued that the allowance was outdated as the claimants were provided with protective clothing and essential equipment to aid them in carrying out their duties in all weather conditions.

The council also argued that "the payment of the allowance can no longer be justified as it is not associated with an additional task that is over and above the normal duties of the workers concerned".

They noted that the allowance, which dates back to the 1970s, relates to the circumstances in which work is performed and not to the duties themselves.

The local authority also argued the payment to the worgers was inequitable as they formed part of a larger group of 140 employees carrying out similar tasks as part of their normal duties.

In its argument before the Labour Court, SIPTU said the workers were paid the allow- ance for working through inclement weather. The union argued that so long as they were contractually bound to do so they met the criteria for payment of the allowance.

The allowance is pensionable and has the status of an "allowance in the nature of pay" – or a fixed periodic pensionable allowance. Its cessation would be contrary to the terms of the Haddington Road Agreement and would adversely affect their pension entitlements, the union said.

The Labour Court found that the claimants were entitled to retain the allowance on a "personal to holder basis" – meaning it is uncertain whether new recruits will be eligible to claim it.

"We very much welcome the Labour Court's ruling," said Mr O'Brien.

Irish Independent

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