Staff at Limerick hospitals protest over pay of executive

Manager, employed under a contract, was paid €258,000 over a 13-month period

HSE director general Tony O’Brien who said an agency was used to fill a critical role which had proved impossible to fill for a variety of reasons. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

HSE director general Tony O’Brien who said an agency was used to fill a critical role which had proved impossible to fill for a variety of reasons. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times


Members of the Impact trade union at the Limerick group of hospitals have commenced industrial action in protest at the €250,000 salary paid to a senior executive.

The union said staff at five hospitals in the group are refusing to report to, or co-operate with, the manager from this week.

Impact said the work-to-rule meant staff “will refuse to acknowledge instructions from the manager, provide data to him, co-operate with changes directed by his office, or agree to relocate, redeploy or change assignments if instructed”.

The union said the industrial action will not affect service delivery, but it warned that that it could escalate if staff were penalised for refusing to work with the manager.

The Irish Times reported in May that the Limerick group of hospitals had had paid a senior manager, employed under a contract arrangement, €258,000 over a 13-month period since last year.

Last month the chairman of the Dáil Public Accounts Committee John McGuinness raised concerns that a company known as Starline Management Consulting Ltd was paid €258,000 to fill the position of chief operations officer/deputy chief executive officer at the hospital group.

Impact said today the industrial action was supported in a ballot by 90 per cent of the union’s members in Ennis general hospital, Limerick regional hospital, Limerick maternity hospital, Croom orthopaedic hospital and Nenagh general hospital.

Impact assistant general secretary Andy Pike said the action was designed to highlight the opposition of hospital staff to the excessive and unwarranted salary payments being made through a management consultancy.

“The HSE director general has said the mid-west hospital group needs additional administration staff to provide vital services to patients. The money spent employing just one management consultant would cover the costs of at least five clerical staff to help the hospitals cope with increasing demands.

In these circumstances, staff very much resent reporting to a senior manager who is being paid at least twice the correct rate for the job,” he said.

Mr Pike said the union would be writing again to the Public Accounts Committee.

“While the hospitals group is expected to take steps to fill the chief operations manager post, it still appears that they are intent on retaining this consultant on a salary way above the proper rate for the job. Our action will continue until we get confirmation that the Starline contract is finished,” he said.

HSE director general Tony O’Brien told the Public Accounts Committee last month the post in Limerick had been publicly advertised on two occasions but could not be filled.

Mr O’Brien said the Limerick group of hospitals was important and was at a critical stage of its development with a number of challenges to overcome.

“The group chief executive officer, the interim board and I identified the necessity to strengthen the management team there. We have, for example, by open competition put in a financial officer there that it did not have before, as well as other posts.

“This particular post simply proved impossible to fill for a variety of reasons, as sometimes occurs.

“Consequently, on an interim basis, pending the rerunning of the competition, we used an agency-based approach. In other words, we brought in someone from an agency to fill the role,” he said.

“It is not by any means the most desirable way but the options available were to leave vacant a critical post in a highly challenged group of hospitals at a time of enormous improvements needing to be made. In consequence, it was agreed to fill the post on that basis, and so it is not an employee, it is a contractor.”

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform told the Irish Times last week that people appointed on consultancy contracts to carry out work for public bodies were not covered by the Government’s official pay ceiling of about €185,000 - the salary of the Taoiseach.