Talks to take place in dispute over executive pay at Limerick hospital group

Impact members have been undertaking industrial action over what they view as ‘excessive’ pay

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.

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.

Tue, Jul 29, 2014, 15:15

Talks are scheduled to get underway tomorrow at the Labour Relations Commission aimed at resolving a dispute over what staff at the Limerick group of public hospitals view as excessive levels of executive pay.

Members of the Impact trade union at the Limerick group of hospitals have been taking part in industrial industrial action since last week in protest at the €250,000 salary paid to a senior manager.

Impact members at five hospitals in the group are refusing to report to, or co-operate with, the executive concerned.

Under the industrial action the union said that 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”.

Impact said the industrial action would 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 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.

In a blog on its website, Impact said the dispute represented “an expression of exasperation at an employer who has presided over huge cuts in entry-level admin support staff, yet has no difficulty in paying over twice the going rate for the services of one consultancy-supplied senior manager”.

Impact said 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.

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 month 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.