€18m spent on increments alone amid claims 'poor, sick and elderly paying for Croke Park'
The Sunday Independent today publishes details of a €266m bonanza in pay increases, top ups, on-call and overtime payments including to middle and senior HSE staff, which it previously failed to disclose. Amid deep rancour within the Government over the €26m cuts to respite care allowances, we can disclose that this year the HSE will spend €17.6m alone on incremental pay increases to staff.
The figures have led a government member of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Fine Gael TD Simon Harris, to state yesterday "the poor, the sick and the elderly are now paying for the retention of the Croke Park deal, which is clearly not fit for purpose".
Despite much government rhetoric that incremental pay increases are largely for lower-paid staff, we can reveal today:
• 621 people in the HSE who earn €70,000 or more will this year receive a pay increase of more than €1,000 each.
• Worse still, documents obtained by the Sunday Independent show that, in 2012, 221 senior managers and staff who earn more than a €100,000 will be in receipt of 'increments' or length of service pay increases.
• Junior doctors will share a pot of €97m in overtime payments.
• Senior doctors, dentists, managers and consultants are among those receiving €81m in additional on-call payments this year.
• 272 staff in HSE National Corporate, including 51 earning more than €70,000, will see their salaries increase this year.
The revelations – contained in documents demanded by the PAC from the HSE and obtained by this newspaper – are likely to cause a furore among the coalition's backbenchers, after the Government had to make savage cuts to respite care and other frontline medical services.
The matter of the respite care remains a sore point for backbench government TDs and, despite a plea from Taoiseach Enda Kenny to his troops to desist from budget discussion, the matter was raised during Fine Gael's parliamentary party meeting by Mr Harris – much to the displeasure of his leader.
Speaking to the Sunday Independent, Mr Harris said: "These galling figures dispel the myth that increments are only paid to lower-wage workers.
"Any renegotiation of Croke Park must see everything be put on the table. This is disgraceful when you think of the difficult Budget we have had to put through."
The PAC demanded the figures following a series of exchanges with HSE bosses who have repeatedly refused or claimed they were unable to provide them. "Dealing with the HSE is like trying to pull blood from a stone," Mr Harris said. The HSE said in its documentation that "increments will be paid to 21,888 staff, of which 621 – or 3 per cent – of staff are in receipt of basic salaries in excess of €70,000". The documents show that consultant doctors will receive almost €1m in overtime payments this year, while nurses will receive €31m in overtime payments. In total, €168m will be paid in overtime to HSE staff.