Consultants say pay cut for new specialists 'unacceptable'


THE IRISH Hospital Consultants Association has said Government plans to cut pay rates for newly-appointed specialist doctors by 30 per cent are “unacceptable”.

The group has written to Minister for Health James Reilly seeking an urgent meeting on the issue.

Separately, the association has told members in an internal circular that there was no agreement yet on proposals for work practice reforms which emerged from talks at the Labour Relations Commission last week.

Welcoming the outcome, the Minister then said the work practice reforms and greater flexibilities could generate €200 million in savings. Dr Reilly said following the talks that the proposals were being backed by consultants’ representative bodies.

However, in the circular, dated September 21st, the association said it had signed up to the Croke Park agreement in November 2010 on the basis that it was asked to take part in a collaborative approach.

It said in the recent talks it had repeatedly stressed that it could not enter into a collective agreement which would bind members as it had never done so in previous contract negotiations.

“However, the Labour Relations Commission has asked the association to revert to its membership to ascertain if its members would agree to the IHCA entering into a binding collective agreement on their behalf.”

The circular said that the proposals which emerged from the Labour Relations Commission talks on September 17th “are for consultation with members before the association decides on its response to the Labour Relations Commission and the HSE”.

“Despite media commentary no agreement has been reached on these matters as yet.”

Under the Labour Relations Commission proposals management would have much greater scope to roster consultants. In some specialities consultants would be rostered in hospitals on a round-the-clock basis.

Parallel to the proposals on work practice changes, the Government unilaterally decided last week to cut pay rates for consultants appointed in the future.

The new pay rates have not been published in full but the Government has suggested that there would be a reduction of around €50,000 in the entry pay level in the different categories of consultant contract.

In a letter dated September 25th to the Minister, IHCA secretary general Martin Varley said this move was “short-sighted and therefore unacceptable to the association”.

He said specialists and other highly trained doctors who had intended taking up consultant positions in Ireland viewed the new terms very negatively and had changed their minds.

Mr Varley said it was unfair to target new consultants with another cut “as they have been cut by some 40 per cent in the past three years, which is much more than any other public service group”.

The move would compromise “the existing morale of consultants who are working well beyond their contract hours, treating an increasing number of patients with insufficient resources”.

He said the Government’s move to cut pay rates caused grave concern because it would not serve the best interest of patients.

The association is to hold 11 consultation meetings across the country over the next three weeks to consider the reform proposals.