HSE wants longer week for staff
HEALTH SERVICE Executive management has proposed that staff work an additional two hours per week for the next two to three years in an effort to tackle a potential €500 million deficit in the health service this year.
As part of a series of options for cutting costs, management has also suggested that flexitime arrangements for staff be discontinued.
In addition, management has proposed that overtime could be paid only at a flat hourly rate – with no premium payment – and that the current arrangement, whereby some staff are paid time and one-sixth for work carried out between 6pm and 8pm, could be scrapped.
The options were put forward by HSE management to trade unions in recent days. The HSE asked unions whether there was scope for any of the options to be applied in the health sector, rather than across the public service.
HSE national director Barry O’Brien said last night the body was committed to the Croke Park agreement and wanted to work within the framework of the deal. He said the HSE wanted to protect core pay and ensure there were no compulsory redundancies. The options were put forward as a mechanism to generate constructive debate between trade unions and management on what was viable in the current climate.
Mr O’Brien said the HSE was facing a €500 million deficit and this could have a significant impact on service delivery. In its talks with unions, the HSE said one option was to ask all staff – for a defined period of time, possibly two to three years – to extend their working week by two hours.
Another option would be to pay overtime at the flat hourly rate, while a third would be to ask staff on flexitime to work their full contracted hours. It said the Croke Park deal provided for a working day from 8am to 8pm. Another option would be to cease paying the time and one-sixth payment for work between 6pm and 8pm.
The executive also told unions the current total workforce would have to be reduced to make room for the 600 new posts in mental health and primary care sanctioned by the Government. These new personnel, to be recruited in 2012 and 2013, have to be accommodated within the HSE’s existing official staff ceiling, which is already 150 over its limit.