GMIT catering staff win battle for pension deal

The campus Food Zone, operated by GMIT Catering Company.

Catering staff at Galway Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) have won their battled for better pension entitlements.

The Labour Court has ruled that around 28 catering staff at GMIT should be entitled to membership of the education sector superannuation scheme.

In a ruling issued this week it recommended that GMIT, “takes the necessary steps to amend the workers’ contracts of employment so as to permit them to avail of membership of the Education Sector Superannuation Scheme.”

Up until now, the catering staff did not enjoy membership of this pensions scheme because they were not deemed to be employed by GMIT, they were formally employed by a limited company, GMIT Catering Company.

And even though they were paid by GMIT through its payroll, and were subject to its human resources procedures and policies, they were denied access to the public sector pension scheme enjoyed by other staff.

But trade union, SIPTU, successfully argued their case at a Labour Court hearing.

Department of Education officials told the hearing that “there was nothing preventing an employer” such as GMIT from making a provision in contracts of employment that allows the catering staff access to the pensions’ scheme enjoyed by other public sector workers.

Meanwhile, in relation to another dispute between the same workers and GMIT, in relation to rosters and hours worked, the court ruled that both parties should continue discussions locally to find a resolution.

SIPTU argued that GMIT had breached a collective agreement by varying the hours of work which catering staff are required for during the summer, from May to September, each year since 2009.

It argued that an agreement had been in place since 1995.

Catering staff had a working year of 36 to 38 weeks, and were laid off for the summer. For logistical reasons, GMIT decided in 2009 to hold exams off-campus, and this resulted in a reduction in catering staff hours available in May.

The addition of more foreign students, however, means that there is more opportunity for hours during the Summer months, the court heard.

Both sides agree that there will be more hours available during the Summer months when its Summer school activities increases and Summer exams return to campus.

The union’s attempt to direct GMIT to return to the 1995 agreement failed but the Labour Court ruled, “that the parties should continue their discussions at a local level to find a basis on which the additional work available during the summer months can be rostered in a manner that reconciles the needs of individual members of the catering staff and GMIT’s requirements.