500 hospital staff strike over €250k payment to manager

Up to 500 staff at five hospitals in the University of Limerick Hospital Group have begun industrial action over the continued employment of the group’s chief operations manager on €250,000 per year — more than twice the €116,000 that would be paid to a public servant.

Impact trade union said the staff it represents in Ennis General Hospital, Limerick Regional Hospital, Limerick Maternity Hospital, Croom Orthopaedic Hospital, and Nenagh General Hospital are refusing to report to or co-operate with Liam Casey from this week.

The HSE website says Mr Casey took up a role as interim director for the UL Hospitals Group in January 2013. It does not state when he was promoted to chief operations manager.

Impact assistant general secretary Andy Pike said Mr Casey was hired from a private sector management company, Starline, to manage facilities at the group.

Mr Pike said if that role were to be filled by a public servant, it would equate to a grade eight position and would attract a salary in the region of €80,000, yet he claimed Mr Casey was paid €250,000 for it.

He said Mr Casey was then moved into the chief operations manager position after the departure of the previous officeholder. While the new role did not attract any further remuneration, last month HSE chief executive Tony O’Brien admitted a public servant in the same position would be earning €116,000.

The work-to-rule by Impact members, who include administrative staff, therapists, and social workers, means they will refuse to acknowledge instructions from Mr Casey.

“The HSE director general has said the mid-west hospital group needs additional administration staff to provide vital services to patients,” said Mr Pike.

“The money spent employing just one management consultant would cover the costs of at least five clerical staff to help the hospitals cope with increasing demands.

In these circumstances, staff very much resent reporting to a senior manager who is being paid at least twice the correct rate for the job. Our action will continue until we get confirmation that the Starline contract is finished.”

When asked when the position would be filled on a permanent basis and on what salary, the HSE responded: “The chief operations officer position referred to is a critical position within UL Hospitals. UL Hospitals has advertised the position on a number of occasions without succeeding to appoint a successful candidate. The current arrangement is an interim solution while UL Hospitals seek to make an appointment. UL Hospitals is currently re-advertising the position.”

Last night, Impact said it had accepted an invitation to attend a Labour Relations Commission hearing on the dispute on July 31 but added its action would continue.

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