Unions representing Health Service Executive staff have voiced disappointment at progress made at today's talks on controversial proposals to shed 5,000 jobs at the agency by the end of the year.

After three hours of talks at the Labour Relations Commission, IMPACT National Secretary Louise O'Donnell said employers had refused to allow the terms of the voluntary redundancy and retirement schemes to be referred to the Labour Court.

She said management had also been unable to provide answers to simple questions on staff entitlements.

SIPTU Health Division organiser Paul Bell said the Department of Finance had made it quite clear that the package was the package, and there could be no further negotiation on the terms.

He described the talks as 'unproductive' with the exception of discussions regarding backfilling of posts left vacant following the redundancy scheme.

He said management had given a commitment that they would work within the terms of the Croke Park Agreement.

However, the parties would not have a full picture of where vacancies would arise for a number of weeks.

HSE Head of Corporate Employee Relations Brian Kirwan said management would not agree to refer the terms of the scheme to the Labour Court because this was a Government scheme and they could only implement that package.

The sides are to meet again this Wednesday to permit clarification on areas including notice periods and outstanding annual leave.

They will also meet next Monday to discuss how the HSE plans to maintain service provision in the New Year with 5,000 fewer staff.

Over 7,000 HSE staff are said to have expressed interest in leaving the organisation by the end of the year.

Of those, around 70% have come from administrative grades, while 30% have come from support staff.

Those who want to make a firm application have until 19 November to do so and must leave by the end of December.