Consultants’ call for pay increase denied by HSE
This article by me appeared in yesterday’s Sunday Times.
The Department of Health is refusing to back down over pay cuts, denying hospital consultants a salary rise to which they claim they are contractually entitled.
Last week, the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) said its members would accept the pay cuts in the budget if they were first given the salary increase, which they said had been owed since June. The consultants claimed the rise was due under the terms of a new contract which came into force this year.
But the department has told The Sunday Times that no rise in pay will be given to any high-earning public servant, including consultants, until at least 2012, as recommended by a recent government report. In effect, payment of the increase would negate the budget cut for consultants. Brian Lenihan, the finance minister, announced a 15% fall in pay for public servants earning more than €200,000 a year, which would include most hospital doctors.
Donal Duffy, spokesman for the IHCA, said the outstanding money ranged “between 10% and 18%”, depending on speciality and location. Under the terms of the new contracts, a pay increase for consultants was to be introduced in three stages: the first between June and September 2008; the second by May 2009; and the third last June.
Mary Harney, the health minister, deferred payment of the third strand pending the publication of the report by the Review Body on Higher Remuneration in the Public Sector, which has advised cuts in top-level pay.
Harney met with the consultants last Tuesday. The Department of Health said that “apart from the reductions in pay, the Review Body recommends that there be no increases in the pay of the higher public-service groups, including any adjustments that might otherwise arise under national agreements, before the end of 2012”.
The IHCA declined to comment on the content of the discussion.
The consultants claim that the HSE is “in breach of their contract” by not paying the June increase. Two hospital consultants are taking legal action over failure to pay.
The IHCA said it would wait until the next meeting of its national council in January to decide its course of action.