HSE management has been warned it faces “confrontation” over plans to withdraw the option for staff to take a pay cut in order to maintain their pre-Haddington Road agreement working hours.
Details of the plan, as well as confirmation of a further voluntary redundancy drive for health service staff from Jan 1, is contained in a letter to senior managers in the service from the HSE’s director of human resources, Barry O’Brien.
Health unions have already written to the Labour Relations Commission complaining about what they see as a breach of the Haddington Road Agreement (HRA).
In his letter, Mr O’Brien says the managers need to make as much savings as possible under the public service cost-cutting deal.
“It is critical that we maximise all of the provisions of HRA,” he wrote. “In this regard it is essential that each and every manager challenges their service to maximise the savings available under HRA prior to any other consideration in the ongoing delivery of service.”
On Jul 1, standard working hours for public servants increased, but a clause in HRA allowed workers to choose to take a pay cut to maintain their original hours.
In his memo, Mr O’Brien said that was an exceptional measure and was only “for a period”. He said that “concession is no longer viable” and from Jan 1, all staff should be working the additional hours.
“The effective usage of the additional working hours provided for is central to the achievement of the savings to which the parties to the agreement have committed,” he said.
The staff panel of health sector unions have written to Kevin Foley, director of industrial relations at the Labour Relations Commission and chair of the HRA Oversight Group.
They said the HSE’s decision not to let staff remain on their existing hours after Jan 1 was a “direct breach of HRA” and requested the deal’s oversight group be convened immediately over the matter.
In the meantime, it said unions would be instructing staff not to co-operate.
Union sources speculated the HSE would not win a challenge on the matter at the Labour Relations Commission.
Siptu’s health division organiser, Paul Bell, said the HSE appeared determined to nullify section 2.5 of the agreement.
“Such an action will lead to an inevitable confrontation with health service unions,” he said.
Mr Bell said an “unspecified number of targeted redundancies” from Jan 1 under a new voluntary redundancy drive would only compound the problem of resource shortages identified by the four hospital CEOs in letters to HSE chief Tony O’Brien.
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