Talks expected on health recruitment 'freeze'

Health chiefs and the trade union Impact are expected to hold talks next week over a row about an alleged recruitment freeze.

Thousands of health workers staged lunchtime protests at hospitals across the country today claiming the ban was having a devastating effect on services.

However, the Health Service Executive denied a staffing freeze was in place and invited the union to meet with management on Monday.

Impact said it had today received word of job cuts planned for the Dublin/Mid Leinster region but said it was willing to meet the health body to discuss the issue.

“There are tried and tested industrial relations mechanisms available to all parties to avail of – if people are really willing to engage in a meaningful discussion about staffing in the health services,” said Nora Mason of the HSE’s Human Resources Directorate.

“As a first step towards such a dialogue, we have invited Impact to meet with us next Monday.”

Impact members voted overwhelmingly for action in April and last month union bosses announced workers would take part in a work-to-rule.

The union said the action involved 28,000 workers with staff refusing to undertake tasks, functions or responsibilities linked to the vacant posts.

It also included a ban on all non-emergency overtime, out of hours work and co-operation with HSE reforms

It was escalated earlier this week when staff withdrew co-operation from reporting procedures.

Workers, including therapists, managerial and administrative grades, protested at 28 locations around the country during their lunch breaks today.

Tens of thousands of health workers are involved in the work-to-rule and are refusing to cover vital posts which they say have been left vacant by the HSE embargo on hiring staff.

In September the HSE announced a recruitment freeze in response to spending overruns in hospitals but in December announced it was over.

Impact claimed the freeze was re-imposed in January, banning the filling of most posts that became vacant in September as well as those unfilled before the embargo came into force.

It also claims around 100 posts are to be axed in the Dublin/Mid-Leinster region, a national ban on overtime was to be put in place and one residential unit in the region was to be closed.

But the HSE said there was no embargo on hiring staff.

“Since January 2008, over 3,400 posts have been approved to be filled which will bring the total number of staff employed across the HSE, Voluntary Hospitals and Voluntary Agencies to 128,000,” a HSE spokesman said.

“In short, recruitment continues to happen – with a large number of important Medical Consultant posts approved and advertised every week.”

The health body said it was regrettable that Impact had opted to escalate its dispute and said patient services would eventually be affected.

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