Health sector management and unions are to meet with the Haddington Road Agreement Oversight Group to discuss the row which has broken out over increased working hours.

Health unions have advised their members not to cooperate with HSE management's attempt to force all staff to work the increased hours negotiated under the Haddington Road Agreement.

In a letter to managers last week, HSE Director of Human Resouces Barry O'Brien urged them to squeeze every possible saving from the HRA before considering cutting services.

Under the agreement, staff who did not want to work the increased hours were permitted to retain their existing hours with a pro rata pay cut.

However,  Mr O'Brien's letter states that what he calls the "concession" allowing staff to retain their existing hours is no longer viable - and that from 1 January, all staff must work the increased hours set out in the HRA.

The Staff Panel of the Health Sector Unions Chair Phil Ni Sheaghdha wrote to the chair of the HRA Oversight Group Kevin Foley asking that the oversight group be convened immediately to deal with the issue.

She described the HSE move as a direct breach of the agreement.

She told Mr. Foley that the health sector unions were advising their collective membership that they are not required to co-operate with the instruction from the HSE.

The HSE is under significant budgetary pressure, and has to secure savings estimated at between €666m and €1bn next year.