Large numbers of HSE staff ask about taking pay cut instead of longer hours

Management says such arrangements will be exception rather than the rule


Large numbers of staff in the Health Service Executive are inquiring about voluntary pay cuts rather than agreeing to a longer working week as set out under the new Haddington Road accord.

However, in a confidential memo, HSE chiefs have told senior managers in the health authority and top-level executives in voluntary hospitals and agencies that such an arrangement can only be permitted on an exceptional basis.

Senior HSE management indicated it was essential for the health authority to utilise the additional working hours provided for under the proposed new agreement on public service pay to reduce the cost of overtime and staff from employment agencies.

Purpose of agreement
In a memo to senior managers last Friday, HSE national director of human resources Barry O’Brien said the health service was required to contribute €420 million of the €1 billion reduction the Government was seeking on its public service pay and pensions bill over the three years to 2015. He said it was essential the provisions in Haddington Road on pay and productivity were implemented from July 1st. The health service had “unsustainable levels of overtime and agency [staff] and the Haddington Road agreement now presents a set of options which will significantly reduce these costs.”

One of the key elements of the agreement is it allows for increases in the working week of public service staff. Thousands of nurses, for example, will see their working week increase from 37.5 to 39 hours.

However, the agreement also allows staff to seek to retain their existing working hours with a corresponding reduction in salary. Mr O’Brien, in his memo, indicated many staff were looking at this option but warned this could not become widespread.

Roster revision
“The standard working hours of public servants will increase from July 1st, 2013, and these hours will be deployed and may be aggregated on daily, weekly or annual basis as best meets service demands following local consultation. Staff will co-operate with the revision to rosters necessary for the full deployment of the additional hours . . .

“A large volume of inquiries has been received regarding the potential option for staff to remain on existing hours and accept a direct pay cut. I wish to highlight that health service management are seeking to maximise the additional hours to reduce agency costs, to reduce overtime costs and to further reduce headcount . . . I acknowledge that . . . it may be possible for managers to facilitate a small number of staff to retain their existing working hours.”

Nursing unions, as well as Siptu, last week agreed to accept the deal. The Irish Medical Organisation is to announce the results of its ballot tomorrow.