In a joint statement the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) and SIPTU unions said the Bon Secours group had accumulated income of €31 million, had capital and reserves of €80m and a valuation of €112m on its tangible assets.
Therefore they said it was inappropriate that the company wanted to impose cuts of between 4% and 5% in basic pay and a 5% reduction in allowances paid to staff.
“These pay cuts are illegal and we will continue to seek their removal as we believe that they are not necessary considering the operating surplus of this company,” said INMO director of industrial relations Phil Ní Sheaghdha.
“This announcement of pay cuts, to apply from January 1, was made immediately prior to Christmas without any negotiation or discussion with staff or their representatives. It is an example of the poor regard for loyal staff and a complete disregard for agreed industrial relations procedures and the legal requirements of consultation.”
In response a spokesman for the hospital group said it regretted the decision by members of the two unions to strike. It also said the figures quoted by the unions were misleading in the way they were quoted. It said the €31m in accumulated income referred to was included in the €80m in capital and reserves.
Furthermore it said the income was accumulated over a number of years and not just in one year. “The adjustment in salaries by Bon Secours is necessary to address the reduction in income resulting from substantially lower reimbursement rates being applied in 2010 by private health insurers, and other market conditions,” she said. “Bon Secours Health System has historically aligned itself to the pay scales operated by the Department of Health/HSE. This link is a contractual one. However, on this occasion Bon Secours has decided not to reduce salaries to the extent being applied within the public sector. By pursuing a range of cost-cutting measures in other areas, the organisation has endeavoured to minimise the impact on staff salaries.
“These cost-containment measures are essential in ensuring the continuity of full service within our hospitals in what is a very difficult environment for everyone.”
The strike action in the Bon Secours hospitals will begin a week after SIPTU members and the INMO begin similar action at the Mater Private Hospital. The unions are also balloting staff at the Mount Carmel hospital group.