Hospital consultants threaten industrial action as anger grows over pay restrictions

The President of the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO), Dr Peadar Gilligan, has warned that the IMO is moving towards taking industrial action in the New Year to resolve an ongoing dispute with the Government over pay discrimination for hospital consultants hired after 1st October 2012.

In a statement the IMO said that in 2012 the Government introduced a two-tier pay system for consultants in public hospitals. Consultants employed after the 1st October of that year are paid 30% less than colleagues employed before that date.

It continued: “This cut was on top of the 10% cut imposed on all new entrants to the public service during the austerity era. While some efforts were made by the IMO to ameliorate these cuts with new pay scales the fact of the matter is that hundreds of consultants in Irish hospitals are working alongside colleagues doing the same job but earning between €30,000 to €55,000 less.

“Morale is being undermined. Vacant posts are proving impossible to fill with few or no applicants for what would have been previously considered highly sought after senior medical posts.

“This unilateral 30% cut was imposed by the then government.  It has resulted in hospital services being compromised, longer waiting lists for our patients and an unsustainable shortage of consultants with 500 vacant posts currently in the system. This number of vacant posts is steadily increasing as more consultants retire or resign from the public system.”

Dr. Gilligan, President of the IMO and a consultant in Emergency Medicine, said that there were now significant risks to patient safety as a result of the pay cuts introduced for post 2012 consultants.

He has called on the Minister for Health to establish a process to resolve this issue for new consultants as a matter of urgency.

He said: “Failure to enter into talks will result in a ballot for industrial action. This process which the IMO is seeking was in fact recommended by the Government’s own Pay Commission. We waited 10 years for the last unfair treatment of senior doctors to be addressed we will not show the same level of restraint this time.”

Dr. Gilligan said that the pay cuts had been imposed without agreement in the financial crisis in 2012 and must now be reversed.

He added: “We are in the midst of a recruitment and retention crisis amongst consultants with almost 500 unfilled consultant positions across the country and this is directly impacting on patient care.  It is impossible to justify a two-tier pay system for people doing the same job with the same qualifications and it is impossible to hire the consultants we need as long as we persist in paying them 30% less than their colleagues.”

The IMO recently undertook a survey of consultants and the results confirmed widespread anger over the persistence of this pay divide.  Almost two thirds of respondents indicated that they would engage in Industrial Action to force the Government to address the issue.

Dr Peadar Gilligan said that the survey underscores the challenges facing consultants.

“Industrial action is the last step we would choose to take but our members are at the end of their tether.  This issue has been long-fingered by the Government for too long.  The Minister for Health has recently confirmed his view that we need a process to resolve this issue and we are now calling on him to move to set up this process immediately.”

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