Hospital consultants to ballot for industrial action unless talks convened

IMO warns patients could face “chaotic” winter amid dispute over two-tier pay

Hospital consultants will ballot for industrial action if the Government does not set a date for pay talks within the next few days the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) has warned.

The doctors’ trade union maintained that patients could face a “chaotic” winter if the Government failedto end the lower-pay rates applying for medical specialists appointed in recent years.

In a briefing for TDs and senators in Dublin on Wednesday, the IMO said it was "deeply concerned" that Minister for Health Simon Harris had not yet followed up on his commitment to hold talks on the issue this month.

IMO president Dr Padraig McGarry said that if a date for engagement was not forthcoming from the Minister in the coming days, the organisation would “have little choice but to move to organise a ballot of consultant members to consider escalating their dispute with the Government on this matter.

“It is a sign of the deep anger and frustration amongst the medical profession that we are confident that consultants will vote for industrial action if Government do not resolve this unfair and discriminatory pay issue,” said Dr McGarry.

“Only consultants were targeted in this way with an additional cut of 30 per cent on top of those imposed on all other public servants during the years of austerity.”

The IMO said that hospital consultants employed after October 2012 were paid up to €50,000 less than colleagues appointed before that date.

“Official figures confirm that over 500 consultant posts lie vacant as doctors choose emigration over working in a two-tier system. The IMO believes that this is directly leading to the inability of the HSE to recruit consultants to deliver vital services and rising waiting lists.”

Last Friday, the Department of Health said it remained its intention that invitations would issue to medical organisations this month to invite them to talks on the pay for consultants appointed in recent years.

Mr Harris pulled out of speaking at the annual conference of the Irish Hospital Consultants Association at the weekend, citing a diary clash.

Individual doctors on social media accused him of cowardice as no initiative had taken place as promised to deal with the pay issue for recently-appointed consultants.

The Government believes it would cost about €40 million to end the two-tier pay system for hospital consultants.

Delegates at the annual conference of the IHCA on Saturday passed a motion calling on the organisation’s council to take all necessary measures to restore pay parity.

The IHCA has a long-standing policy of not engaging in industrial action and it said whatever measures its council put in place would not discommode or disadvantage patients.

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent