Talks over doctor hours hit snag on sanctions
IMO warns industrial action is just suspended and not off the table
Junior doctors on picket duty outside the Mater Hospital. Photograph: The Irish Times
Talks which started yesterday between non-consultant hospital doctors and health service management aimed at averting further industrial action over working hours are due to resume today at the Labour Relations Commission.
The commission had invited the parties to attend further negotiations following a national stoppage by about 3,000 non-consultant hospital doctors on Tuesday as part of their campaign for an end to excessive working hours.
The main sticking point between the doctors, who are represented by the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO), and the HSE centres around the sanctions to be applied in the event of hospitals breaching new rules to come into effect next year governing working hours for non-consultant hospital doctors.
Arriving for talks at the LRC, the head of the
IMO industrial relations, Steve Tweed, said the union’s campaign of industrial action had only been suspended and had not been taken off the table. He said the IMO was at the talks to listen to proposals put forward by health service management on the sanctions that should apply in cases where new working-time rules were breached in the future.
Mr Tweed said the organisation’s non-consultant hospital doctor committee would meet to consider whatever emerged from the talks. He said the HSE had written to the organisation on Tuesday and accepted that there would have to be provision for financial sanctions where breaches of the rules occurred.
He said the IMO wanted to hear what the HSE had to say on the issue at the talks.
The HSE’s head of human resources, Barry O’Brien, said he was hopeful a solution could be found that would bring stability and certainty to the health service and remove the risk of further industrial action.
However, he again ruled out any financial sanctions for breaching working time rules that involved the payment of additional money to doctors. He said this was precluded by existing agreements, including the Haddington Road deal.
The talks adjourned last night, with an IMO spokesman saying both sides would reflect overnight on the issues before resuming negotiations today.
About 7,400 patients were affected by the strike on Tuesday. These patients either had elective (non-urgent) procedures deferred or appointments at outpatient clinics postponed.
Minister for Health James Reilly said on Tuesday it was hoped to reschedule these appointments as quickly as possible. He suggested that senior managers in hospitals which breached new rules on working hours for non-consultant doctors could “be relieved of their duties” in the future.