Sunday 28 May 2017

Medics' pay may be bumped up in bid to woo them home

Nurses and doctors could be given same deals as those who have left to work in UK and Australia

Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Paschal Donohoe Photo: Tony Gavin
Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Paschal Donohoe Photo: Tony Gavin
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

The Government is considering benchmarking nurse and doctor salaries against international competitors to bring to an end the brain drain in the health sector.

Since the economic collapse, nurses and doctors here have been emigrating in their thousands to the UK, Australia and the Middle East in search of better pay and conditions.

Now senior figures in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform have suggested ripping up the public sector pay structure as part of an attempt to keep our brightest professionals in Ireland and lure home those who emigrated during the financial crash.

The proposal, which is at the very early stages of discussion, stems from a belief that Ireland is effectively in a single labour market with the UK, Australia and the Middle East when it comes to hiring nurses and doctors.

The radical move would see the Government act to match the salaries and perks available to medical professionals who emigrated.

Other skilled professionals who work in the public sector, such as IT and finance experts, could also benefit from the proposed overhaul of the public sector pay structure.

There is a belief in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform that the Government should focus on increasing the home-grown workforce in certain areas of the public sector.

"There are some sectors in which we have little difficulty hiring and you have other sectors where that might not be the case," a senior source said.

The same source noted that the State did not have a problem hiring new teachers or gardai and it rarely lost workers in either area to other countries.

The Public Sector Pay Commission was specifically tasked with comparing salaries of public sector workers in other countries.

The terms of reference state: "Comparing appropriate rates for identifiable groups within the public service with their equivalents in other jurisdictions, particularly where internationally traded skill sets are required, having due regard to differences in living costs."

It is understood that the Government hopes the commission's findings on international pay comparisons will feed into a debate on public sector pay. The debate would focus on keeping and attracting the best skilled workers for the areas of the public sector where they are needed most.

However, there is so far no indication that Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Paschal Donohoe is willing to bring forward talks with public sector unions on renegotiating the Lansdowne Road Agreement.

Donohoe is determined to face down the unions despite growing industrial unrest in the wake of the Labour Court recommendation which will see the Garda pay bill increase by €50m next year.

The minister intends to wait for the Public Sector Pay Commission's final report before beginning any official talks on a successor to Lansdowne.

Last week, commission chairman Kevin Duffy came under fire when he described as "mutiny" the decision by Garda representatives bodies to propose strike action.

The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors said it would not work with the pay commission because of Duffy's comments. However, he received the backing of Taoiseach Enda Kenny who described him as an "outstanding individual".

Sunday Independent

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