IHCA will not attend Labour Court hearing over reform proposals

Monday 22 October 2012 21.53
IHCA Secretary General Martin Varley said consultants had been implementing reforms
IHCA Secretary General Martin Varley said consultants had been implementing reforms

The HSE has warned that hospital consultants risk being exposed to pay cuts if they do not attend a Labour Court hearing on work practice reforms on Thursday.

This evening, the Irish Hospital Consultants Association said it will not attend the Labour Court hearing aimed at resolving outstanding issues from a package of reform proposals negotiated last month.

HSE Director of Human Resources Barry O'Brien said non-attendance could be interpreted as meaning the IHCA and its members were walking away from the Croke Park Agreement.

He said they were therefore at risk of losing protection from pay cuts under the deal.

He said HSE management had been consistent with all other grades of public servants within the health service - who had delivered significant change and shown full regard for all the processes of the Croke Park Agreement - and they could not make an exception for the consultants.

In a statement issued this evening, IHCA Secretary General Martin Varley said consultants had been implementing reforms and had delivered significant savings.

However, he said none of the proposed changes referred to the Labour Court for hearings this week were within the scope of the specific health sector measures in the Croke Park Agreement.

As such, he said the IHCA believed there was no basis for these matters to be investigated by the Labour Court and has notified the Labour Court of its position.

Mr Varley said that two weeks ago IHCA members had voted overwhelmingly not to enter into collective agreements which could alter consultants' existing individual legally binding contracts without their personal consent.

He pointed out that the Croke Park deal explicitly states that all existing agreements and contracts remain intact.

He said consultant reforms had delivered savings of at least €90m this year, increased the number of patients treated and reduced waiting times, despite cuts in acute hospital resources.

He said the HSE appeared intent on jeopardising what he called “achievements so far”.

Mr O'Brien said there had been clear agreement by all parties to the LRC negotiations that all unresolved matters would be referred to the Labour Court.

Informed sources confirmed that the Labour Court hearing will go ahead on Thursday regardless of the attendance of the IHCA.

The Irish Medical Organisation, which represents around 1,000 hospital consultants, has confirmed that it will be attending the hearing. The HSE is also expected to attend.

The outstanding issues are reductions in consultant rest day entitlements, fees for second opinions for psychiatrists, and how to address massive backlogs of overtime known as historic rest days.