The HSE is proposing to cut nearly 1,000 staff and redeploy 2,000 employees.
The proposals are outlined in a confidential circular issued today to top HSE managers and seen by RTÉ News.
The number of staff in the area of administration and management will be cut by 500.
2,000 staff in the National Hospitals Office and HSE corporate will be redeployed to community health services.
As a general rule, a new hospital consultant post will only be created when two junior doctor posts have been cut.
In addition to these measures, the HSE also wants to reduce the number of staff nurses by 700 and put limits on student nurse posts.
No extra payments will be made to HSE staff that are redeployed.
The meeting between health unions and the HSE has ended.
The Impact trade union said a further meeting is scheduled for next Monday and there will be no action on the circular between now and then.
The HSE says it will be working with the unions to discuss the issues contained in the draft circular.
The measures are being proposed by the HSE to stay within budget and to implement the Government's moratorium on recruitment and promotions in the public service.
The draft circular says that while there is no exemption for the health service from the moratorium, the aim is to maintain front line services where possible and to minimise the impact on patients.
The directive will also apply to all voluntary hospitals and agencies funded by the executive.
In future, recruitment of staff will only be considered on the basis of a 'one out - one in' system and decisions may be taken to suppress posts.
There is provision to fill a limited number of vacancies, or create new posts, in the areas of speech and language therapists, psychologists, social workers and emergency medical technicians.