Unions plan for ballot to strike over staff cuts by HSE West

TRADE unions representing staff in the HSE West have demanded management agree to attend the Labour Relations Commission to discuss plans to get rid of up to 1,000 positions in the region.

SIPTU’s health organiser Paul Bell said he had written to the HSE’s human resources director Sean McGrath demanding a copy of a report by consultants Mott MacDonald on cost reduction strategies in the west.

He said he had also demanded details of what cutbacks management were proposing in all of the regions as he did not expect the purge to be contained to the west. Mr Bell’s union has already started planning for a ballot for strike action in the event that the scale of job losses rumoured transpires.

Further details emerged yesterday of the controversial cutbacks the HSE West is considering in order to address the €90m overspend.

IMPACT trade union said it had been told that in Sligo General Hospital, where there is a €5.9m overspend, management intends to, amongst other things, close 60 beds on top of the 72 closed in 2009 and drastically reduce the fixed-term contracts of 25 employees.

In some cases those contracts would go from 35 hours to just eight hours per week.

IMPACT official Richie Carrothers said these measures would affect radiology and oncology among other services in the area. He said any overspend was due to more people needing treatment.

“More people are presenting with medical cards and fewer people have health insurance, leading to more demands on services locally,” he said.

“Staff working on fixed term contracts have contractual rights and it is illegal to treat them less favourably. A reduction in the number of working hours, on the scale proposed, would devastate the lives of these workers.”

He said reducing working time to just eight hours per week would mean workers could not earn a living wage.

He added any attempt to impose compulsory redundancies would be in breach of the Croke Park agreement on public service pay and reform.

Tomorrow, union officials are due to meet management of Letterkenny General Hospital. A document on cost containment there is already under discussion by HSE West management. Among the proposals are:

*Termination of (or significant reductions to) the contracts of 120 fixed term staff.

*Closure of the orthopaedic ward.

*Cancellation of all elective surgery.


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