Consultants risk wage cuts if they boycott court hearing
HOSPITAL consultants risk putting themselves outside the protection of the Croke Park Agreement and having pay cuts imposed upon them if they fail to turn up to the Labour Court tomorrow.
The hearing will examine doctors' rest days and 'second-opinion' fees for psychiatrists, amid plans to get more efficiency from consultants.
But the Irish Hospital Consultants' Association (IHCA), which represents the majority of the senior doctors, has remained adamant that it will not attend the hearing.
Its refusal means that the implementation body overseeing the Croke Park agreement can be asked to adjudicate on whether the IHCA's stance leaves it outside the deal.
Currently, the Croke Park deal protects public sector salaries and so prevents pay cuts for existing consultants.
If the implementation body rules that the consultants have lost this protection, it will then be a matter for the Government to decide what penalties should be imposed.
Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Brendan Howlin said yesterday: "We would expect people who are invited by the Labour Court . . . to turn up to that.
"And we expect all unions which are signed up and fully protected by Croke Park to keep their side of the bargain. You can't be part of a collective agreement for the things that protect you and excluded from a protective agreement for the things that challenge you."
The Irish Medical Organisation, which also represents consultants, has confirmed that it will attend tomorrow's hearing along with the Health Service Executive (HSE).
But Donal Duffy of the IHCA said the issues before the Labour Court on Thursday did not fall within the terms of the agreement, so his association was not obliged to attend.
However, the IHCA gave a commitment at an earlier hearing at the Labour Relations Commission that it agreed with these issues being referred to the Labour Court. Sources insist that this now binds them to being in attendance tomorrow.
Both organisations are either balloting or surveying members on demands that consultants work new rosters which will see them on duty in the evenings and at weekends.
Hospitals have been told by the HSE to have these rosters ready for implementation on November 5. The matter has been under discussion since May and the HSE insists that specialists have had full notice that the new work arrangements are coming in.
Consultants should take their mEdicine: Eamon Delaney, page 29