| 13.5°C Dublin

Consultants and barristers next in line for wage cuts

The Sunday Independent has learned that hospital consultants and barristers are the next group whose excessive pay rates are facing the chop.

The news comes in the wake of the decision of senior mandarins to accept significant pay cuts and the signalled determination of the Government to "take on'' our recalcitrant judiciary, senior figures within the cabinet have told the Sunday Independent.

The move is in part informed by the "astonishment'' felt by the EU/IMF/ECB troika over the pay levels for Irish hospital consultants.

One minister said: "The view of the Government is that if we are engaged in the business of cutting wages, this time, unlike Fianna Fail, we're going to start from the top."

They added that "the hospital consultants are next" and said "the issue has been devolved to James Reilly at his own request and negotiations have begun".

At last week's Ictu conference, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore warned that the rates of pay of "sheltered sectors" would have to be tackled.

One government source told the Sunday Independent that when it comes to the pay of professions such as barristers and consultants, "there is a consensus at the heart of Government this has to be done swiftly".

In the wake of criticism from Mr Reilly following the release of figures showing how one consultant earned more than €1m from the VHI, top doctors are in "the immediate firing line''.

These figures emerged in response to a Dail question by Labour's Kevin Humphreys on consultant earnings from both public work and private VHI clinics.

It also emerged that 37 consultants earned more than €500,000 a year, while a further 301 consultants earned €200,000. The totals indicate 338 consultants earn as much or more than the Taoiseach.

A top-level source in the Department of Health said: "Figures like this explain why the minister is so anxious to break up VHI dominance."

The arrival of the IMF does appear to have brought the consultants to heel.

One senior figure noted that "our consultant friends have become a lot more humble. The party is over and they're trying to negotiate a way out of the present contract, whether through longer hours or more productivity".

A source close to the Cabinet also said that "so far, the consultants have displayed a positive recognition of the consequences of the new economic realities".

Sunday Independent