Budget 2013 Health: Health unions to fight any attempt to cut pay

Health unions have insisted they will fight any moves to cut their pay or conditions — despite Health Minister James Reilly confirming unspecified Croke Park changes are on his agenda.

In a health budget briefing at Government Buildings yesterday, the under-pressure minister effectively told medical unions to choose between cuts to pay or cuts to patient services.

While just over €300m in pay-related savings have been earmarked, Dr Reilly said it “would not be wise” to put a figure on how much he wants to cut specifically under Croke Park.

However, he confirmed: “A whole range of measures [are on the agenda]. It will present a challenge to the unions, but the choice is between cutting the cost of services or cutting services.”

The comment is believed to be aimed mainly at highly-paid doctors, who have repeatedly defended their income levels.

However, any pay and condition changes will also affect lower-paid, health service workers.

Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation general secretary, Liam Doran, insisted the minister is in for a long battle if he wants to implement cuts among his members.

“The INMO’s initial reaction to the extra taxes and charges will make any outcome on the extension to the Croke Park Agreement very difficult and highly improbable.

“The reality is that nurses and midwives, and other public servants on ordinary incomes, were already finding it very difficult to pay their bills, meet their obligations and look after their families.

“The impact of this budget will leave many members, and their public sector colleagues, simply unable to make ends meet and pay their way.

“Against this harsh reality, the idea that the Government, in January, will seek to impose further reductions on the earnings of public servants, just because they are public servants, is grossly unfair and simply unrealistic.”

He said that after examining the full impact of the budget on its members, the INMO plans to discuss its next move with other unions in the 24/7 Frontline Alliance umbrella group on Monday.

“There is an air of unreality within Government if it thinks the vast majority of public servants, who are on ordinary incomes, have any more to give, or can suffer any further reductions in their income and still pay their bills and look after their families,” he said.

“Our members have nothing more to give and we will protect them from any more cuts.”

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