By Lloyd Mudiwa.
The IHCA has expressed concern with what it said was a misinformation campaign on the status of the Labour Relations Commission (LRC) proposals and the Association’s position on them, as the Minister for Health issued a stern warning that senior consultants’ salaries would be cut if their representative organisations stepped out of the terms of the Croke Park Agreement (CPA).
IHCA Secretary General Martin Varley last week said: “The Irish Hospital Consultants Association is concerned with misinformation being put into the public domain in recent days which misrepresents the status of the LRC proposals of September 17 and the position of the IHCA on them.”
The Health Service Executive (HSE) had previously claimed neither the IHCA nor the IMO, at a meeting that day, were able to commit to new work practices from November 5, and it was losing patience with the consultants.
The pay of public servants cannot be touched under the terms of the CPA, but Minister Dr James Reilly, speaking last week at the opening of a primary care centre in Limerick, for the first time warned that those who continued to resist change would risk putting themselves outside of that protection. Dr Reilly told RTÉ that existing consultants who refused to work new flexible hospital rosters risked having a pay cut imposed.
“That recommendation will be binding. If doctors don’t comply, the matter will go before the implementation body for the Croke Park Agreement. If consultants lose the cover of that agreement, then there are serious consequences for the salaries of existing consultants.”
However, Varley clarified: “It is incorrect to describe the LRC proposals as an agreement and inaccurate to suggest matters have broken down.”
IMO Industrial Relations Director Steve Tweed has said his organisation was still waiting for a Labour Court date for a hearing on two issues relating to the LRC deal, but until this was adjudicated on, it could not ballot its members on the entirety of the LRC proposals.
Stressing the terms ‘proposal’ and ‘parties will consult’, Varley said the Commission, in its covering letter, stated: “The attached document represents a proposal from the Labour Relations Commission for agreement between the parties. The Commission is clear that all parties will consult with their principals/members and will communicate with each other following that process as to whether the attached proposal is accepted as an agreement between the parties.”
Varley went on to say the National Council of the IHCA was recommending acceptance of these proposals and members were considering them, so the Association saw no reason to refer these matters to any third party. This consultation will conclude on October 26 and the IHCA expects to be in a position to notify the HSE of the outcome shortly thereafter, Varley said.
Consultants, he pointed out, had been the driving force behind all significant improvements in the delivery of hospital care, citing the development and implementation of the clinical care programmes by consultants.