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Sunday 26 February 2017

Junior doctors to accept new contracts

Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent

THE country's 4,500 junior doctors are this week expected to vote in favour of a new contract -- despite losing out on a claim for €90m in compensation for lost overtime.

The contract, to be introduced next month, will mark a new era for the once bleary-eyed medics who until recent times clocked up working weeks of more than 100 hours.

Other health unions are beginning industrial action today but the Irish Medical Organisation, which is not involved in the protest over pay cuts, is recommending junior doctors ballot in favour of a Labour Court ruling central to the new working arrangements.

The downside, however, is a fear it may become more difficult to fill essential posts if junior doctors opt to work in the UK. Central to the new contract is an EU directive which forces the HSE to limit the working week of junior doctors to 48 hours.

And since the middle of last year the medics have been working shifts instead of the previous office hours of 9am to 5pm, which had led to large overtime payments.

The doctors earn between €35,000 and €85,000, depending on their years of experience.

In some cases they had been topping up their salaries with €70,000 in overtime, leaving the HSE with an overtime bill of €240m.

Junior doctors had been demanding €20,000 each in compensation money for loss of overtime earnings.

This was turned down by the Labour Court and it also threw out a claim for a salary increase as well as an unsocial hours payment.

However, it said the doctors' current overtime premium of time plus one-quarter be increased to time plus one-half.

And doctors who work in different parts of the country every six months also hold on to a relocation allowance of up to €500.

The HSE also wants to reduce the numbers of junior doctors working in hospitals -- that is, for every full-time senior specialist appointed a hospital must let two junior posts go.

Irish Independent

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