Pay cut for hospital consultants set to be about 15%

Wed, Dec 9, 2009, 00:00

THE GOVERNMENT is expected to introduce a pay cut of about 15 per cent for hospital consultants in today’s budget.

The country’s 2,000 public hospital consultants who are among the highest earners in the public service currently receive €160,000-€220,000 per year.

However, the Government has already withheld the second phase of pay increases due to consultants under the terms of a revised contract introduced last year, and enhanced allowances also due.

In return for signing the new contract, which involved new restrictions on private practice rights, consultants were to receive salary scales of €175,000-€240, 000. Under the contract, consultants were also to be rostered to work over an expanded day and at weekends. New work practices were also put in place.

The new contract, introduced last year, took more than four years to negotiate.

Meanwhile, the Government is also expected to introduce cuts of about 5 per cent in professional fees.

Overall pay cuts for the 300,000-plus staff in the public service will range from 4 per cent for the lowest earners to 15-20 per cent for the highest.

Meanwhile, informed sources said the Minister for Finance would “address” the issue of judicial pay as part of the budget. However, sources said this could take time. The salary of judges is expected to remain unchanged because of a provision in the Constitution which prohibits their pay from being cut.

Informed sources said the recently completed report of the review body on higher remuneration in the public service compared the pay of judges in Ireland with those in the UK and found that, based on a number of different factors, salaries here were not out of line. However, the sources said the review body had recommended the pay scales be reduced, although it acknowledged the constitutional difficulties involved.

Speaking yesterday, former Supreme Court judge Donal Barrington said that he did not believe judges were immune from the taxes the general population have to pay.

He told RTÉ Radio the purpose of the constitutional provision was to secure the independence of the judiciary and to ensure they would not be victimised over judgments the government did not like.

“As long as the law is not singling out a judge or judges as a separate class and is merely imposing upon them the burdens that all citizens with a similar salary, for instance, have to bear, I do not think that that would violate the Constitution,” he said.

Mr Barrington said he believed it would be bad for the judiciary if they were regarded as a class that did not bear the burdens common to all citizens.

The review body on higher remuneration also recommended that the pay of the Taoiseach be reduced by nearly €60,000 to €228, 466, while that of a Minister should fall from €225,196 to €191,417.

It also proposed that the salary of a secretary general in the Government department (level one) should be reduced by over €42,000 to €242,540.

The report said pay for an assistant secretary at the top of their scale should be reduced by over €12,000 to €138,655.