Credits row stalls doctors’ salary deal

Attempts to reach agreement on new improved pay scales for hospital consultants are being stymied by an argument over what credits experienced doctors are entitled to under the new scale, according to the doctors’ union.

The Irish Medical Organisation wants doctors returning from abroad or working within the Irish health service who apply for jobs in the public system to be paid at a level that reflects their experience — and the union wants to be party to a framework governing what those payments should be.

However, the Health Service Executive claims the pay proposals, drawn up by the Labour Relations Commission, give full regard to the relevant experience of doctors.

The proposed scale, due to take effect on September 1, has an entry level of €127,000, increasing to €175,000 after 12 years, for consultants committed to working exclusively in the public system.

The current salary scale for these consultants is €116,000 to €121,000.

The proposals drawn up by the LRC would allow some new consultants with experience to be appointed at an entry level of €155,000.

Steve Tweed, IMO industrial relations director, said that while the actual salaries being proposed were largely acceptable — the maximum on the new scale was just €3,000 less than on the old scale before a 30% pay cut for new consultants was introduced in October 2012 — it would take consultants up to twice as long (12 years) to reach maximum earning power.

The union was also unhappy that doctors doing the same job and working in the same hospital were earning less than colleagues on the old contract, and he said that regardless of what agreement was reached, the union “reserves the right to pursue a single pay scale for all consultants.”

He said the union was happy to re-enter talks at any time but that he did not think introducing new pay scales from next week was the right thing to do.

The union has consistently blamed difficulties in recruiting hospital consultants on below-par pay. Mr Tweed said 10% of consultant posts are currently vacant (around 370), a figure fuelled by the 2012 pay cut.

Health Minister Leo Varadkar said the large number of vacant consultant posts was impacting on waiting times and patient care. He added that the potential to earn €175,000 was “a very good salary by anyone’s reckoning”.

Yesterday, the HSE said it believes that “the proposals are comprehensive in dealing with and advancing the issue of career structure and associated pay rates”.

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