Consultants threaten to ballot for strike action over two-tier pay

IMO says Government must take action on pay and recruitment issues by September

Consultant psychiatrist Dr Matthew Sadlier said: “The Government’s recklessly belligerent attitude is radicalising our members who are now considering the need to withdraw services until pay parity is restored.” File image: Brenda Fitzsimons / The Irish Times

Consultant psychiatrist Dr Matthew Sadlier said: “The Government’s recklessly belligerent attitude is radicalising our members who are now considering the need to withdraw services until pay parity is restored.” File image: Brenda Fitzsimons / The Irish Times

 

Hospital consultants are to ballot for strike action in September unless the Government moves to address what they describe as the recruitment and retention crisis in the health service.

The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) on Friday said Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Health Simon Harris were “radicalising” consultants by failing to deliver on commitments they had given previously to tackle the two-tier pay system which sees senior medical specialists appointed after 2012 paid considerably less than more longer-serving colleagues.

The IMO said that “with over 500 vacant consultant posts around the country, increasing waiting lists and now the failure to recruit enough consultants to allow the urgent care centre in Connolly Hospital (phase 1 of National Children’s Hospital) to operate as planned, the Government, despite previous commitments, is effectively ignoring the crisis”.

The doctors’ trade union said if talks did not commence on the pay and recruitment issue by September, it would ballot its consultant members on industrial action, up to and including strikes.

Speaking on Friday, consultant psychiatrist Dr Matthew Sadlier - one of the medical specialists appointed after 2012 on lower salaries - said: “The Government’s recklessly belligerent attitude is radicalising our members who are now considering the need to withdraw services until pay parity is restored.

“This is a crisis in consultant recruitment which is happening now and which could impact on front line care in the health services for years and it simply must be fixed now.”

Dr Sadlier said that consultants were particularly upset that both the Taoiseach and Minister for Health had previously acknowledged the need to change the current arrangements but had not acted.

“In 2014 the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (then Minister for Health) stated that whatever deal replaces the Haddington Road (public service) agreement should provide for equal pay for equal work.”

In 2018, Mr Harris said at the IMO annual general meeting that “we must and will engage to find a solution to consultant recruitment”.

Dr Matthew Sadlier said: “No engagement has taken place and in the meantime the HSE advertises posts but receives few if any applicants. A decade ago there would have been intense competition for such posts. We have a flagship project that cannot attract enough consultants to even open Phase 1 as originally planned.

“Unless we do something now the situation will deteriorate to the extent that services will be unsustainable with no hope of developing much needed new services for patients.”