The threat of strike action in public hospitals has escalated following a decision by junior doctors to turn down an invitation to resume talks on their long working hours at the Labour Relations Commission (LRC).
The doctors, who are part of the Irish Medical Organisation, have served notice for strike action on Tuesday which will hit patient services including surgery and clinics.
The doctors want an end to shifts of more than 24 hours and the introduction of a 48 hour week by the end of next year.
Earlier this week the doctors decided not to recommend peace proposals from the HSE to a ballot saying they were inadequate.
It emerged today that the union has now turned down an invitiation to return to the the LRC in a bid to resume negotiations to avert the strike.
The said it is extremely disappointed at the IMO’s decision to refuse the invitation and it called on the union to put the HSE’s plan- including new proposals on sanctions for hospitals which breach working hour limits - to a ballot.
The HSE said it is satisfied that next Tuesday’s action is completely avoidable and should be immediately deferred to allow this ballot to take place given the serious patient care and ethical implications of proceeding with strike action in these circumstances.
“In order to allow all NCHDs to fully inform themselves, the HSE is placing its proposals regarding the resolution of the dispute on its website at www.hse.ie this evening.
“The HSE confirms that it has dealt in a comprehensive manner with all of the issues raised by the IMO in achieving a maximum 24-hour shift by November and a plan for full compliance by December 2012.
“Despite the complex and challenging matters at issue, significant progress has been achieved during the engagement since 3 September. The IMO has acknowledged this progress at the LRC and in writing to the HSE.
“The only outstanding matter is a claim by the IMO that doctors should receive an additional payment/paid leave, to the order of two and a half times the standard rate, as a sanction for hospitals that do not comply with the measures.
“The HSE is proposing an alternative measure that involves a financial sanction against the hospital in cases of non-compliance,” said a spokesman.
Barry O’Brien , the HSE’s head of human resources said : “Health Services management is fully committed to achieving a maximum 24-hour shift and working towards full EWTD compliance in close collaboration with the IMO.
“The request for additional payment to doctors is a cost increasing claim and prohibited under the terms of the Haddington Road Agreement and one HSE management has absolutely no discretion to negotiate.
“ The HSE and the IMO are both signatories to the agreement, both parties are required to be fully compliant with public pay policy.”
Eilish O’Regan Health Correspondent