Agreement on consultant work reforms collapses


THE DEAL between the Government and hospital consultants on work practice reforms, brokered at the Labour Relations Commission last month, has effectively collapsed.

Health service management said last night it would now bring its plans for reforms to the Labour Court for binding arbitration under the Croke Park agreement. Minister for Health James Reilly last month stated the deal with consultants had the potential to generate €200 million in savings.

HSE’s director of human resources, Barry O’Brien, said last night that management had not been able to secure the co-operation of the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) and the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) with its plans to implement the work practice reforms from November 5th. The deal would have involved the introduction of new arrangements which would have seen some senior doctors rostered on duty on a round-the-clock basis in some hospitals.

Mr O’Brien said the IHCA had stated at a meeting yesterday that it was conducting a survey of members on the deal, but that it was not in a position to enter into a collective agreement. He said the IHCA had maintained it was only working with the Croke Park agreement in a collaborative way.

Mr O’Brien said management believed the IHCA position was unacceptable. He said the Croke Park agreement allowed management to press ahead with change even if the issue was still in process.

The IHCA last weekend said it would recommend the deal to members but that it could not be party to a collective agreement.

Mr O’Brien said the IMO would also not provide co-operation with the November 5th date for implementing the changes. He said the IMO had maintained it would not be balloting its members on the deal until the Labour Court had dealt with two outstanding issues.

IMO director of industrial relations Steve Tweed said management, by going down the road of confrontation, risked losing the goodwill of consultants and throwing away the achievements of 85 hours of negotiations.

He said the IMO went into the meeting with the understanding that discussions would focus on progress made on the conciliation element from the Labour Relations Commission.

However, HSE negotiators had insisted on a commitment from the consultant side that they would co-operate with the introduction of the LRC proposals on November 5th.

“We said we were in the middle of a process, and waiting for a ruling from the Labour Court on two outstanding items,” said Mr Tweed. Asked what the IMO planned to do now, Mr Tweed said it was committed to the Croke Park agreement and would give serious consideration to going to the court. The IHCA did not respond to calls last night.