1 A UNIQUE ASSOCIATION A History of the Medical Laboratory Scientists Association Francis Devine
2 Published by the Medical Laboratory Scientists Association, Liberty Hall, Dublin ISBN Layout and Printing by CRM Design + Print Ltd.
3 Contents Preface by Terence Casey, General Secretary, MLSA Foreword by Jack O Connor, General President, SIPTU A Note on Sources & Acknowledgements Abbreviations v vii ix xi 1 Cultivating a Trade Union Culture 1 2 A Trade Union Apprenticeship: From Workers Union of Ireland to Medical 3 Laboratory Technologists Association, A Few Chosen Words to the Wayward: the Medical Laboratory Technologists 11 Association in the 1960s 4 All Changed, Changed Utterly? The Strike of Medical Laboratory Technologists, Unity The Very Essence of Its Strength: the Medical Laboratory Technologists 53 Association in the 1970s 6 A Unique Form of Trade Unionism, Boiling Frogs and The Way Forward: 81 the Medical Laboratory Technologists Association in the 1980s 7 Once Again, Comrades! Agents for Change and a Restructured Future: 107 the Medical Laboratory (Technologists ) Scientists Association in the 1990s 8 At Variance With Common Sense : The Debacle of Benchmarking and Fighting 143 To Secure the Future: the Medical Laboratory Scientists Association in the New Millennium 9 A Steady & Persevering Attention to Intellectual Improvement: 177 Education & the Medical Laboratory Scientists Association 10 What Passes for the Future? 187
4 iv MEDICAL LABORATORY SCIENTISTS ASSOCIATION 11 Appendices 1 MLTA/MLSA Officers & Committee, MLSA Agents Association Personalities Statistics MLTA Gold Medallists Ministers for Health Bibliography Association Time Line Index 209
5 MEDICAL LABORATORY SCIENTISTS ASSOCIATION v Preface The first meeting of the Medical Laboratory Technology Section of the Workers Union of Ireland on the 30 May 1961 marked the commencement of efforts to formally organise what was a relatively new and emerging profession on a national basis. Since its foundation the The Association has played a central role in the development of medical laboratory services in Ireland and this history is a fitting tribute to those members who have served the Irish health service in that time, and particularly those who gave of their time, energy, ideas and talents to serve the MLSA and to promote, develop and further the profession of Medical Science. Despite its diminutive stature in comparison to other unions and professional associations, the MLSA has cemented its place amongst the group of health unions and remains the only union to represent a single allied health professional grade in the Republic of Ireland. This history details and documents how the MLSA continued to develop and adapt to meet new challenges that confronted Laboratory Technicians, and later Medical Scientists, by utilising the fundamental trade union principle that in unity is strength. Understanding our past can provide lessons and insights as to how we might best face our future and hopefully provide inspiration to the next generation of Medical Scientists who face challenges no less daunting than their forebears. Finally, I wish to congratulate Francis Devine on his work and to thank him most sincerely for his tireless efforts to document so lucidly and accessibly the history of our Unique Association. Terence Casey, General Secretary, MLSA
6 vi MEDICAL LABORATORY SCIENTISTS ASSOCIATION Foreword Jack O Connor Only a decade before the Medical Laboratory Technologists Association (MLTA) was founded in 1961, the hopes of those aspiring to a progressive leap in public health policy were cruelly dashed with the collapse of Dr Noël Browne s modestly egalitarian Mother and Child Scheme. It had succumbed to the connivance of that same coalition of Church and wealthy vested interests which had subverted the noble aspirations of those who penned the 1916 Proclamation. Far from cherishing all the children of the nation equally, the post-independence Ireland they had woven had become a narrow reactionary provincial backwater which had singularly failed to foster a culture of either economic or social innovation. Yet the world was changing for the better. Aneurin Bevan s National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom was just little over a decade in existence. Although still excitingly new, it had Jack O Connor addresses MLSA AGM 2010, Westport, as President, ICTU, and General President, SIPTU already confounded its detractors by proving the viability of a revolutionary concept provision of the highest standard of health care science can deliver, universally accessible, and free to all at the point of use. Post-war Europe was well on the way to evolving a new social market model of development hitherto unknown in the history of human experience. This was unfolding on the basis of a new consensus between capital and labour around an unprecedented compromise between free trade, rapid productivity growth and industrial expansion on the one hand and social and economic security for all on the other. The Welfare State was flourishing. Ideas like worker participation and collective bargaining had been established as of right. These gains in the workplace were complemented by the acquisition of societal rights embracing housing, education, welfare and healthcare from the cradle to the grave. There were indications that Ireland, too, might be emerging from the dark chasm of economic and social backwardness characterised by mass unemployment, emigration and misery. Seán Lemass became Taoiseach in June 1959 and championed Ken Whitaker s First Programme for Economic Expansion. It was the dawn of a new decade laden with exciting possibilities. Within the trade union movement a new vitality was becoming evident. The Irish Congress of Trade Unions was established in 1959 ending a decade and half of regressively pointless internecine conflict. Young Jim Larkin (son of Big Jim), General Secretary of the Worker s Union of Ireland (WUI), and John Conroy, General President, Irish Transport & General Workers Union (ITGWU), had played a central role in bringing it about. The Congress was perched on the threshold of a rapid expansion of trade union membership and density.
7 MEDICAL LABORATORY SCIENTISTS ASSOCIATION vii However, Larkin and Conroy s ambitions extended considerably beyond lowest common denominator wage bargaining as the key to the enhancement of living standards. They aspired to an era of social and economic progress based on a wider societal construct in parallel with the evolving European social democratic project. They had already embarked on the task of re-unifying the ITGWU and the WUI with the objective of forging a powerful instrument to accomplish this in Ireland. Tragically, they were not to succeed. Larkin, in particular, thought, spoke and wrote extensively about the central role of technological proficiency and workplace productivity, and the essential requirement to embrace new layers of organisation for professionals unacquainted with traditional trade unionism. His vision encapsulated the reconciliation of individual, vocational and societal dimensions. This led him to consider departures from traditional trade union organisational models. All this framed the historical context within which the unique entity that has become the MLSA emerged. At the outset, it was the Medical Laboratory Technologist s Section of the WUI Number 15 Branch which became the Medical Laboratory Technologists Association (MLTA). In this book, the respected labour historian, Francis Devine, painstakingly charts their journey. We are introduced to Cyril Keogh and his clinically tender application to the process of germination under Larkin s tutelage. The book describes the essential skills of incipient trade union organising in near green field conditions. Once commonly understood in the movement, they have been all but lost to the progress without participation years of so-called Social Partnership. This period coincided with the global prevalence of the Capitalism without Capital myth. Devine then takes us on to the MLTA s initial excursions to the Labour Court and the shattering of illusion as expedience and fairness collide. The struggle to assert the recognition of the distinction between Technologist and Technician followed. Then on to the challenge of leadership concluding terms and setting rates on less than optimum terms, consolidating organisation and marking time for the arrival of more fortuitous conditions to strike again. Strike they did, in 1969, with Larkin no longer there to guide them as he had died on 18 January that year. They did him proud. The strategy was brilliantly executed resulting in a resounding success although, as always, the pendulum swung precariously for a while. The Association did not sit on its laurels. Shortly afterwards, it embarked on an ambitious initiative to advance the other leg of its project in the field of professional development. This campaign involved the deployment of different skills resulting in the establishment of the Academy of Medical Laboratory Science in 1974, MLTA founder Sean Hanratty being the central figure. At last, young men and women could qualify in Ireland obtaining recognition on par with the highest international standards. This, in turn, enhanced personal advancement by promoting professional development and standards contributing to the quality of the health care sciences in Ireland. Steady progress was achieved by the Association over the subsequent quarter of a century against the background of the faltering development of our public health service during the economic recession of the 1980s which ultimately resulted in savage retrenchment extending into the early 1990s. Slow recovery followed and emergent possibilities against the background of the most sustained period of real economic progress in the State s history, Here again the text reflects the multi-
8 viii MEDICAL LABORATORY SCIENTISTS ASSOCIATION dimensional character of the course followed by a vibrant, democratic, professional association. The reader is guided through the cut and thrust of internal conflicts and controversies, the varied tasks of trade union organisation, the endless grind of negotiations, arbitrations and outcomes. Parallel with this, the steady progress of professional development is diligently portrayed as the organisation became the MLSA in Keogh s retirement in 1993 was preceded by the triumph of hosting the World Congress of the International Association of Medical Laboratory Technologists and the decision to maintain the parallel organisations of Association and Academy. Then on to the mirage of exponential growth, bubble and bust. Here, there is the ebb and flow of exhilaration and angst. On the one hand, we have the publication of the Expert Group Report in February 2001 which dealt with pay and terms of contract for Medical Laboratory Scientists conceding all but three of thirty items submitted by MLSA, now led by Helen Franklin. Regrettably, this was followed by disappointment on the publication of the First Benchmarking Report on Pay in the Public Service and the outcomes which followed. Like the 1969 strike, this again proved a severe test of MLSA character. Unbowed, the Association reached deep within, drawing on its rich history and tradition. Under Terry Casey and John Kane, it has successfully renewed itself, now holding its own Negotiating Licence and participating fully as an independent entity within the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and its Public Services Committee. What emerges in this book is not merely a chronological summary of events. This work is much more, incorporating both methodical scrutiny of the building of a trade union organisation among professionals as well as social history and commentary. The Association has always unswervingly promoted the aspiration of universal health care. Conference after conference repeatedly reiterated commitment to the concept, reflecting an ethos that recognises the synthesis of the interests of citizens and health care practitioners. We live in dangerous and uncertain times. This is no more so evident than within the health service itself. Alternative avenues present. Health care, so essential to dignified human existence, is in many respects, even more a commodity that is traded in the market place now than it was when the Association was founded in Yet, the realisation of universal health care remains a tantalising possibility. The case is more than proven across the globe. Professional organisations such as the MLSA remain pivotal and key to the battle for the future. Young Jim Larkin would have been as proud as we in SIPTU are today and privileged by the continued affiliation of the Association. Jack O Connor, General President, SIPTU
9 MEDICAL LABORATORY SCIENTISTS ASSOCIATION ix A Note on Sources & Acknowledgements This history of the Medical Laboratory Scientists Association (MLSA) has been compiled primarily from Association records held in its Head Office in Liberty Hall, referenced as the MLSA Archives. MLSA Archives consist of Executive Minutes, Annual Reports and publications, Newsletters, Agents circulars and notices, correspondence files, published reports and ancillary material. More recent material is stored electronically on the MLSA website or in Head Office. In addition, some MLSA material was deposited in the Irish Labour History Society (ILHS) Archives, Beggar s Bush, Dublin 4. Interviews and conversations took place with former and current Association Officers, providing explanation, context and memory to the formal record. MLSA was affiliated to the Federated Workers Union of Ireland but there are few Association references in FWUI Annual Reports. From 1990, this also applies to SIPTU (Services, Industrial, Professional & Technical Union) published material. MLSA affiliation to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions occurred in 2006, so Congress reports were consulted. As Association affairs rarely gained press coverage, national newspapers were referred to only for the 1969 Strike. Assistance of staff at Howth Library, Irish Labour History Society Archives, Pearse Street Library, and Trinity College Library is gratefully acknowledged. As with any trade union enterprise, this work was a collective effort. For the compiler, the biggest handicap was not having been a Medical Laboratory Scientist although some who commented on drafts suggested this was in fact an advantage! Understanding terminology and contextual frameworks, having a feel for a very close-knit profession, and sensing the actual mood of members are factors often obscured and/or ignored by formal records. A minute that suggests something was decided after a lengthy discussion was likely a euphemism rather than reference to time frame. Interviews and conversations, written and verbal feedback from past and present members were of tremendous assistance. Those providing valuable insights were former MLTA/MLSA Secretaries Cyril Keogh and Helen Franklin; former Deputy Secretary Tom Moloney; and Helen Barry, John Brady, Gerry Christie, John Jackson, Patricia McCarthy, Gerard O Toole and Joseph Phelan. Moloney facilitated contact with the Academy of Medical Laboratory Science. He, Columba Quinn and, especially, Noel White who made drafts of his forthcoming AMLS history available, provided insightful data and explanation. Finally, Catriona Crowe, National Archives of Ireland; Roma Keogh; Jack McGinley, Trinity College Library and SIPTU National Executive Council; Ed Penrose, Irish Labour History Society Archives; and Ann Riordan encouraged, supported and walked alongside when the path was steepest. MLSA Head Office staff General Secretary Terry Casey, Industrial Relations Executive John Kane and Administrative Officer Eileen Doherty were central to everything. They were generous with their precious time, sourced and produced any document sought, and facilitated every request. While such actions are consistent with their professional diligence on behalf of MLSA members, they provided an open welcome to the stranger and demonstrated a regard and commitment to Medical Laboratory Scientists that was highly motivating. The commissioning MLSA Executive permitted a free hand, testimony to the Association s noble tradition of open expression. They were, rightly, confident in their own history. To John Kane, in particular, I owe immense gratitude as he provided opportunity to study a fine Association, conceived and administered by sincere, genuine trade unionists. The work has been
10 x MEDICAL LABORATORY SCIENTISTS ASSOCIATION full of surprise, pleasure, and a developing regard for its subject matter, organisationally and individually. Were I a Medical Laboratory Scientist, I would draw pride from reading this history. One important lesson fully appreciated by Keogh and others fifty years ago has not changed since the Association s first day. It was, and is, only as effective as its weakest member. Any labour history s challenge is not just to provide dry fact and illuminate leading figures, nor even to induce a sense of pride important as these elements may be. Its true challenge is to ask that today s history readers next become tomorrow s history makers. Inspired by the significant achievements recorded here, today s MLSA members must be ready to make their contribution so that it may be something which the next generation will be equally inspired by and proud of. Francis Devine, Musicians Union of Ireland, 2012
11 MEDICAL LABORATORY SCIENTISTS ASSOCIATION xi Abbreviations ACBI AGM AHSA AMLS ASTMS BTSB C&A Scheme CHA Department DHA DPS ECCLS ECMLTA EGM EGR ERG FUE FWUI GEC HC HNC HND HSA HSE HSEA IAMLT INO IBEC IBMS IBTS/NBC ICTU ILGOU IMAPG IMPACT IMLT IMA IMU INO ITGWU JWG LGSNB Association of Clinical Biochemists in Ireland Annual General Meeting Alliance of Health Service Unions Academy of Medical Laboratory Science Association of Scientific, Technical & Managerial Staffs Blood Transfusion Service Board Conciliation & Arbitration Scheme Cork Health Authority Department of Health, unless otherwise stated Dublin Health Authority Department of the Public Service European Committee for Clinical Laboratory Standards European Committee of Medical Laboratory Technologists Associations Emergency General Meeting Expert Group Report on Medical Laboratory Technicians/Technology Expert Review Group Federated Union of Employers Federated Workers Union of Ireland General Executive Committee, WUI or FWUI Hospitals Commission Higher National Certificate Higher National Diploma Health & Safety Authority Health Service Executive Health Service Employers Agency International Association of Medical Laboratory Technologists Irish Nurses Organisation Irish Business & Employers Confederation Institute of Biomedical Science Irish Blood Transfusion Service National Blood Centre Irish Congress of Trade Unions Irish Local Government Officials Union Irish Medical Association Pathology Group Irish Municipal, Public & Civil Trade Union Institute of Medical Laboratory Technology Irish Medical Association Irish Medical Union Irish Nurses Organisation Irish Transport & General Workers Union Joint Working Groups Local Government Staff Negotiations Board
12 xii MEDICAL LABORATORY SCIENTISTS ASSOCIATION LHA Limerick Health Authority LRC Labour Relations Commission MLSA Medical Laboratory Scientists Association MLTA Medical Laboratory Technologists Association MLTS Medical Laboratory Technologists Section, WUI MLTSG Medical Laboratory Technicians Student Group MSF Manufacturing, Science, Finance Trade Union NBTA National Blood Transfusion Association NBTB National Blood Transfusion Board NCPP National Centre for Partnership & Performance NCSS National Cancer Screening Service NIB National Implementation Body NPF National Partnership Forum NRLM National Review of Laboratory Medicine NWA National Wage Agreement ONC Ordinary National Certificate PBLAA Pathological & Bacteriological Laboratory Assistants Association PCW Programme for Competitiveness & Work PESP Programme for Economic & Social Progress PNR Programme for National Recovery PPF Programme for Prosperity & Fairness PPP Public Private Partnership PSBB Public Sector Benchmarking Body P2K Partnership 2000 PVC Performance Verification Group SGM Special General Meeting SIPTU Services, Industrial, Professional & Technical Union TEEU Technical Engineering & Electrical Union TUF Trade Union Federation (SIPTU & TEEU) USED United Stationery Engine Drivers, Cranemen, Firemen, Motormen & Machinemen s Trade Union WUI Workers Union of Ireland
13 1 1 Cultivating a Trade Union Culture In the broad spectrum of Irish labour history, the Medical Laboratory Scientists Association would appear if it appeared at all as but a small speck. The temptation would be to seek its presence at the blue rather than red end of that scale. Few not least within current Association ranks would probably strongly contend this view. The fact is as the story that unfolds below testifies Association history is more significant, successful and, dare it be said, radical than those unfamiliar with it including contemporary members might realise. True, the Association did not produce a Big Jim Larkin or lead national revolt. Indeed, the Association perhaps represented a relatively privileged group and the longer and more successful the Association operated, the more relatively privileged they became when contrasted with most workers. It did, nevertheless, generate fine leaders and willing, well-informed followers. The Medical Laboratory Technologists Association (MLTA) was created in an organisational and professional vacuum. It took foresight, strategic planning and action, courage and leadership to construct an Association that gained full professional recognition and, as a result, improved pay and conditions. The Association represented professional scientists recognition of their professional and scientific worth growing throughout. In labour history terms, the Association was reminiscent of a craft union: for trade read profession. It recruited only those qualified to become members of the profession Institute of Medical Laboratory Technology (IMLT) Certificate, Membership and Fellowship equating to apprentice and journeyman. MLTA controlled entry to the profession by regulating numbers and agreeing statutory-based designation. It defended the profession against encroachment from above and below, dilution and threatening technology. It presented medals and scholarships for achievement and engaged with educational authorities about training and career structure. It assisted in the creation of a parallel scholarly Academy, encouraging members to join. And yet, the Association s Irish Congress of Trade Unions categorisation is Professional & White Collar. 1 The Association behaved as craft union with one essential difference. It was neither conservative in attitude nor merely reactive. On the contrary, it regularly led debate about professional development, initiated much change in education provision and career structure, and defended the profession in the broadest public interest not just a narrow, sectional concern. Most craft unions had doomed histories, ultimately becoming victims of technology, new forms of work organisation, and diminishing memberships, finances and resources. MLSA faces such spectres today and currently confronts its biggest challenges. Whilst no Larkin leaps from the pages, Cyril Keogh slowly strolls into vision as a significant figure. He simultaneously held the rudder of Association and profession. When he retired in 1993, he had profoundly impacted on Irish Medical Laboratory Science. He learned his trade unionism through trial and error but was tactically first class in the 1969 Strike. This event pumped strength and belief into Association veins and those who followed Keogh, whether as full-time Officers, Executive Committees, or rank-and-file, retained a strong sense of direction, commitment to cause, and innate solidarity. Measured against the stress tests applied to leaders who are only responsible for the circumstances that confront them, all Association leaders distinguished themselves.
14 2 MEDICAL LABORATORY SCIENTISTS ASSOCIATION Medical Laboratory Technologists were tight-knit. They trained, worked and socialised together. They were often physically isolated within hospitals, encouraging myopia. The Association rarely let its beam stray either side of the road it sought to travel. Labour historians would be critical here, after all, was a trade union that ploughed its own furrow and did not apparently care about the broader acres. Affiliation to Workers Union of Ireland and then SIPTU left the Association one seat away from the national trade union table. It perhaps ultimately paid a high price for this when with members anxious to challenge the inequity of Benchmarking s impact on their newly-won pay parity with Biochemists it transpired that SIPTU s Negotiating Licence did not emcompass MLSA. Whether, through direct ICTU affiliation, MLSA will now discover wider direction is, as yet, unknown. MLSA is, as Keogh observed, a unique Association. Medical Scientists in no other country adopted the trade union model indeed, most consciously eschewed it. The Association produced its own structures and terminology. No other union has Agents, for example. It had special relationships with sister, scientific bodies, IMLT and Academy of Medical Laboratory Science. It achieved a distinctive and highly-respected place within Irish medical and health arenas. Medical Laboratory Scientists were, some have readily confessed, unlikely or accidental trade unionists but Government, Department of Health, hospital authorities and management, even other trade unions that considered them fair game for poaching, all underestimated them at their peril. 2 MLSA members can be proud and conscious that their history is true labour history. It is a story of considered organisation, tactical awareness, proactive planning and preparation, thorough professionalism and, occasionally, exciting and committed solidarity. It describes a membership prepared, when requested, to be as militant and solid as any comparator union. It is a history of which both Association members and the Irish labour movement at large can equally acknowledge. Notes 1 See 2 Former MLSA Chair Gerry Christie describes himself as an accidental trade unionist it didn t stop him being an effective one. Interview, 4 August, Pathology, Trinity College Dublin, 1953 Front l to r: Joe Donoghue, Mrs Manning, William Kampff, Mr McCallan, Brian Downes Back l to r: John Kane, Hugh O Rorke, John McKenna (MLSA Archive)
15 MEDICAL LABORATORY SCIENTISTS ASSOCIATION 3 2 A Trade Union Apprenticeship: From Workers Union of Ireland to Medical Laboratory Technologists Association, Individual Medical Laboratory Technologists first joined the Workers Union of Ireland (WUI) in 1958, becoming a Section of No 15 Branch, serviced by full-time Official Thomas Doyle. 1 Among them were Cyril Keogh and Harry Farrell (St Kevin s) who had been influenced by WUI success on behalf of hospital clerical staffs. WUI General Secretary James Larkin Junior initiated a policy of encouraging white-collar and professional groups to affiliate to WUI, thus assisting them to gain professional trade union services while retaining an independent status. WUI hoped that such groups would eventually become full members of the union. Six enthusiasts began to hold weekly meetings in each other s employments or an adjacent hostelry to discuss the organisation of Medical Laboratory Technicians. Keogh and Farrell were joined by Brian Downes (St Kevin s), Seán Hanratty (Blood Bank), Hugh O Rorke (St Michael s) and John Treston (Holles Street), with the nucleus of members in St Kevin s Hospital. Keogh found himself acting as a sort of Shop Steward but colleagues proved reluctant to join. Organisation of workers who were new to trade unionism, and new to an emerging profession, proved difficult and by 1960 the Section had fewer than fifty members. Something had to be done if the project of unionising laboratory staffs was not to fail. 2 Membership & Organisation On 30 May, 1961, in the WUI Offices at 30 Parnell Square, the first meeting of the Committee of the Medical Laboratory Technology Section (MLTS) WUI, was held. John Duffy (St Kevin s Hospital) acted as Chair and Keogh (St Luke s Hospital) as Secretary. Edward Ned Dempsey (St Vincent s Hospital) was elected Treasurer and the others in attendance were Brian Dowling (Jervis Street), Al Kilfeather (Holles Street), Edward Quilliam (Public Health Laboratory, Crumlin), Denis Shaw (Our Lady s, Crumlin) and John Treston (Holles Street). Their first decision was to appoint Collectors in each hospital to gather monthly membership subscriptions. 3 A cautionary approach was adopted by a Committee with no experience of trade union work. It was decided, for example, to advertise the work of the Section through personal contact rather than positively campaigning or asking them to join the Section. This suggested a lack of confidence in their mission but also awareness of the culture among potential members who saw themselves as professional and, in some cases, as above trade unionism. A circular to members informed them of the MLTS formation and appealed for payment of all arrears. By July, members were recruited in Limerick, the first from outside the Dublin area. Increased activity in Dublin caught the eye of those working outside the capital. MLTS sought complete membership lists from WUI. This proved difficult and, together with subsequent problems over those joining through WUI Head Office but not being notified to MLTS, increased the sense that a separate, independent Association was needed. The new initiative attracted the attention of those considered inappropriate for membership. Branch Secretary Doyle referred them to the WUI Hospital Workers Section which might be more competent to deal with their specific problems. WUI did not always issue cards to new recruits, causing some disquiet among the members and the Collectors and angst at MLTS Committee. In November, Galway staffs, who were members of the Irish Local Government Officials Union (ILGOU), wanted to join and were sent application forms. The MLTS Committee agreed to accept all those recognised by the Institute of Medical Laboratory Technology (IMLT) as practicing the profession
16 4 MEDICAL LABORATORY SCIENTISTS ASSOCIATION of Medical Laboratory Technology, though in some instances not necessarily members of the Institute. The application of an Isotope Technician in St Luke s Hospital produced lively discussion necessitating a definitive description of membership entitlement. Membership topped 100 by January There was only a 50% response on the January collection, however, with defaulters citing the main reason for their reluctance to pay their contributions being their annoyance with the Minister in delaying the payment of the new salary. MLTS had a mere 4 19s in the kitty. Whilst the members frustration was understandable, they had to realise that withholding subscriptions hurt no one but themselves. 4 Keogh met with Technologists from Galway, Cork, Waterford and Limerick in Portlaoise on 7 March. It was a very fruitful meeting with provincial groups very impressed with Dublin s activities. As a result, Galway agreed to join, Cork to join in principle, and Limerick joined after consulting members. Waterford were already in the Dublin Section. MLTS was now a truly national body. Some Technologists in Cork had, somewhat incongruously, been members of the United Stationary Engine Drivers, Cranemen, Firemen, Motormen & Machinemen s Trade Union (USED). How they had come to join USED is unclear but Keogh recalls some slight delay while their transfer to the WUI Section was complete. By April, arrears totalled over 100 although membership had risen to 130. The lack of motions submitted to the 1962 AGM only one was received from the Rotunda on working hours was interpreted by the Committee as an expression of members satisfaction. It was a reasonable interpretation, despite the arrears. 5 The Committee reprimanded Galway members in August for acting independently as old habits died hard. James Larkin equally visited Cork to explain the principles of democratic centralism. Arising from this, Larkin sent an application to the Amalgamated Transport & General Workers Union (ATGWU) for clearance of transfer and did not anticipate any difficulty. This confirmed that some Technologists had previously joined different trade unions in advance of the MLTS push to gather them into a national organisation. It was agreed that one member from each province would be co-opted to the Section Committee, although they would have to attend at their own expense unless specifically called to a special meeting. There were now 135 members, 16 5s 4d in the accounts but continued problems with application forms disappearing into the WUI Head Office black hole. By December, membership climbed to 160 and the Committee heard Larkin s outline for what would be involved in forming an Association of their own. Finances were stable despite Treasurer Dempsey s observation of the usual apathy of members in paying their contributions. By October 1963, the AGM had Pathology Staff, Galway Regional Hospital, 1950s (photograph courtesy of Annette Kinsella)
17 MEDICAL LABORATORY SCIENTISTS ASSOCIATION 5 approved formation of an Association. Larkin stressed that the WUI had a very elastic system of affiliation from the financial point of view. Perhaps the new body could become a WUI Branch, retaining one third of its income and charging members over and above the normal Union contribution rates. Keogh was detailed to discuss matters with Larkin. A strong circular was sent on arrears prior to the new Association s inauguration. A proposal to waive arrears before 1 January 1964 was rejected and new members were charged a one guinea entrance fee. 6 Table 2.1: Membership of WUI Medical Laboratory Technologists Section The Twenty Seventh Committee Meeting of the MLTA, held in Parnell Square on 2 January 1964, formally inaugurated the Medical Laboratory Technologists Association (MLTA) as an independent body, albeit retaining WUI affiliate status. All outstanding arrears had to be paid but members could now be dealt with directly. Apron strings cut, the infant MLTA strode purposefully forward. There had been some suggestions that they go it alone, but Keogh wisely counselled against this. He felt secure within WUI and having access to Larkin for advice and guidance. 7 Wages When the Medical Laboratory Technologists Section (MLTS) was organised in May 1961, it was clear that WUI had already been active on members behalf. An offer on a claim for a salary increase from the Dublin Health Authority (DHA) had been rejected on 20 April. Wage bargaining was, however, problematic. It was not clear even to the Federated Union of Employers (FUE) as to which body had responsibility for negotiations. Technologists worked in DHA hospitals, Voluntary Hospitals and institutions like the Blood Bank and Veterinary College. There was no national co-ordination as Technologists in Cork, Galway, Limerick, Waterford and elsewhere were poorly organised. 8 After Keogh and Downes attended a conference with the DHA on Friday, 9 June, 1961, proposals for a new scale for Technologists were made. It would run from but the DHA was not prepared to add anything for Seniors, , or Chiefs, Whether Dublin accepted or rejected this offer, the MLTS Committee recognised that it would have disastrous effects on concurrent claims being made in Limerick, Cork and Galway. It was not just that health service management and agencies might be able to divide and rule, success for the new attempt to create a national body for Technologists was clearly jeopardised. WUI Branch Secretary Duffy asked the ILGOU about making a joint claim, suggesting that they also had Technologists in membership. MLTS Officers were not in favour of this. The incident demonstrated some tensions between WUI and MLTS. 9 In July, the Committee agreed a new salary scale: Student [rising by three increments of 20 and two of 25]; Technologist [10 x 30; 2 x 40]; Senior Technologist, 900-1,200 [3 x 40; 4 x 45]; and Chief Technologist, 1,200-1,500 [6 x 50]. Rather than complicate matters, it was agreed to delete any reference to a bar related to educational qualifications. Not every institution had all these grades in place and concomitant pressure was being applied to improve staffing and grading. A new scale made by telephone from the DHA was received just prior to a Special General Meeting (SGM) in November after the Committee rejected the original DHA offer. It provided for Student, ; Technologist, ; Senior Technologist, ; and Chief Technologist, It was identical to an offer made in Limerick and was retrospective to August, The SGM put a new claim to the Hospitals Commission: Student [5x 25]; Technologist, [5x 35, 4x 45); Senior Technologist, 900-1,200 [3x 40, 4x 45]; Chief Technologist, 1,200-1,500 (6x 50). In addition, those attaining Associate Membership of the Institute would advance two points on the scale; and those attaining Fellowships, a further two points.
18 6 MEDICAL LABORATORY SCIENTISTS ASSOCIATION (courtesy of Andy Foley) A meeting of DHA members accepted a third offer. The Committee argued that they should have met beforehand to provide guidance to the meeting, further evidence that the young organisation was still finding its industrial relations feet. While the accepted offer was with the Minister awaiting his approving signature, Blood Bank members lodged a claim of parity with St Kevin s Hospital. The pace of members claims was taking the Committee by surprise. By February, Minister Seán McEntee sanctioned the new scale but brought it forward from August 1960 to April 1961 thus overruling a bilateral agreement with union and the DHA. Perhaps wisely, the Committee delayed any protest until payments were received. A pleasant surprise was the inclusion of a 25 bonus for possession of the Institute Fellowship. Further problems arose when the Blood Bank would only sanction retrospection until October The Hospitals Commission, on the other hand, issued a similar scale to be paid at individual hospital management s discretion. All in all, the salary increases represented a considerable victory for MLTS and strengthened the case for a national union for Technologists. The Minister reiterated his decision on retrospection and the Committee felt there was no point in pursuing the matter. The union was, in any case, preparing a further claim. 10 In June, a Conference was held with FUE on behalf of Voluntary Hospitals. Confusion arose as FUE wanted to check their competence to represent the hospitals. It was indicative of the muddled situation
19 MEDICAL LABORATORY SCIENTISTS ASSOCIATION 7 (courtesy of Andy Foley) as MLTS attempted to establish bargaining mechanisms to advance their profession. The result was a Labour Court Conciliation Conference on 26 September with WUI representing MLTS, who nominated John Duffy, Phelan and Dempsey to attend with Keogh. The Conciliation Conference was the first endeavour to establish proper salary scales for Technologists but FUE still insisted they needed authority from the Hospitals Commission in order to proceed. A cynical view may have been that such confusion served the Minister and the employers position well. Recruitment in the Veterinary College meant additional negotiations with the Department of Agriculture. 11 In April, 1963, the Committee rejected the first Labour Court Recommendation on salaries as being grossly inadequate and insulting to the profession as it in no way related to the merits of the case submitted. Their disappointment displayed a certain naivety as they had assumed a good case would automatically result in a good outcome. MLTS did not recognise the external pressures on the Labour Court of national wage trends, wider public service pay considerations and their eagle-eye view of health service relativities. A further problem, for Court and union, was that MLTS were still meeting with FUE and Hospitals Commission to sort out the designation of Technologist and Chief. They also discussed actual increases for the Technologist grade; an incentive bonus for examinations; an extension of increments for Seniors and Chiefs; and retrospection to serving of claim. In this context, the Labour
20 8 MEDICAL LABORATORY SCIENTISTS ASSOCIATION Court s caution was better understood. At least Larkin had forced the Hospitals Commission to accept responsibility for negotiating. 12 The 1963 AGM on 16 September accepted the resulting salary award, as did FUE. The Committee read Mr Larkin s protest to the Labour Court which had triggered a second and improved Recommendation and expressed their satisfaction. At the AGM considerable discussion took place on the Recommendation. Fox (Galway) proposed its acceptance under protest, seconded by Donovan Schofield (Limerick). It was carried Larkin was a fine representative and his hand was very much on the tiller of the fragile MLTS boat as she readied herself to slide from the WUI slip into the industrial relations mainstream under her own steam. The Labour Court Recommendation was finally accepted on 8 October but with the greatest reluctance and on condition that a strong protest be forwarded to the Chairman and members of the Court. Larkin, describing himself as WUI Chief Industrial Officer, wrote on behalf of MLTS, pointing out that despite strong dissatisfaction with Court decisions from time to time, the union had never publicly denounced the Court, sought to hold it up to public contumely or weaken its authority or influence. Larkin added, never, in fact, have we sent a protest to the Court such as I now set out below. 13 The Court did not even deign to grant our members their proper professional designation then Medical Laboratory Technologists but referred to them as Technicians despite the detailed explanation made by the Union spokesmen in the actual Court hearing of the importance of such distinction. The Court had summarily dismissed all arguments linking Technologists with similar grades requiring equivalent academic and professional qualifications and even rubbed salt in the wound by extending the incremental period to eleven years, a year longer than that for Health Inspectors. The Court had recently recommended a salary scale of 600 to 950 for Health Inspectors. The Court also ignored the considerable lapse of time between the claim being served and finally determined upon. Larkin continued his attack, It is not unfair to take the view that the Court gave no real consideration to the arguments advanced on the issues raised by the Union, but merely made an arbitrary and indefensible Recommendation wholly unfair to this responsible and important body of employees. Trade Advertisements published in Irish Technologist or Irish Medical Laboratory Technologist, 1960s