Doctor strike now almost inevitable

  • Niall Hunter, Editor

Strike action by the country's junior doctors from next week now looks almost inevitable following the IMO's decision today to refuse to accept an invitation to further talks at the Labour Relations Commission.

The planned industrial action in protest at excessive working hours is due to start with a one-day national strike of junior doctors from next Tuesday.

Moves to settle the dispute had reached a stalemate following a clash between the IMO and the HSE over the issue of sanctions for hospitals who breach a proposed new limit of 24 hours on continuous junior doctor shifts.

The IMO had sought specific payments and/or time off in lieu for doctors when the 24-hour limit was breached.

The HSE said, however, that this was not feasible as it was a pay issue that would breach the Haddington Road agreement.

An IMO spokesman said the offer to re-enter LRC talks had been declined because the HSE had brought what had been discussed to date between the two sides into the public domain, and because the Organisation did not believe there was any basis for further discussions at this stage.

The spokesman said the issue in dispute was about sanctions for breaching working hours limits, and not about doctors' pay, and if hospitals stuck to the 24-hour shift limit there would be no sanctions.

The HSE has claimed that in the talks to date, considerable progress had been made towards reducing shifts to a 24-hour limit by the end of this year and in implementing the EU directive for a 48-hour maximum working week by the end of next year.

The health executive said it was 'extremely disappointed' at the IMO’s decision to refuse the invitation of the LRC to resume negotiations to avoid industrial action.

It called on the IMO to put the HSE’s proposals made in the talks to date, including new proposals on sanctions,  to a ballot of all of its IMO NCHD membership. The proposals involve specific sanctions on hospitals but do not include additional payments for doctors.

The HSE said the only outstanding matter in the dispute is now a claim by the IMO that junior doctors should receive an additional payment/paid leave, to the order of 2.5 times the standard rate, as a sanction for hospitals that do not comply with the measures.

The health executive is proposing alternative sanctions measures that include a financial sanction against a hospital in cases of non-compliance with the proposed 24-hour shift limit.

The HSE claimed next Tuesday's action was completely avoidable.

Hospitals face cuts under shift sanctions


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