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Friday 24 November 2017

Doctors' fury over IMO chief's €10m pension deal

Eilish O'Regan, Health Correspondent

THE outgoing chief executive of the country's largest doctors' union – the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) – is receiving a gold-plated retirement deal worth nearly €10m.

The massive payout to George McNeice (51) has been revealed by the union's president, Dr Paul McKeown, who

said he shares "the anger I have no doubt all members will feel about this matter".

Mr McNeice (pictured left), who had contractual entitlements of €20m, will receive a settlement worth €9.7m upon retirement next year, including a pension fund of €4.5m.

He is also walking away with a lump sum of €1.5m and delayed pension payments of €3.75m, the Irish Independent

has learnt. Mr McNeice will formally step down in March but has had "no active management role in the organisation" since Thursday.

He has been chief executive of the union that has a membership of 5,000 doctors since the 1980s, representing all grades including hospital consultants, GPs, public health specialists and trainees.

His remuneration package,

which was negotiated in 2003, has not been publicly disclosed until now. Several rank-andfile doctors made unsuccessful attempts to secure the information over the years.

It has now emerged he had a salary of €250,000 – which is €50,000 more than Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

He also had a discretionary performance bonus of 30pc and an annual pension contribution of 35pc, bringing the annual package to €492,355.Under a deal, negotiated by a former IMO president, his pension was changed from defined contributions to defined-benefit, payable at the age of 55 years.

In a letter to IMO rank-and-file yesterday, Dr McKeown – a public health doctor who earlier this week acknowledged Mr McNeice's contribution – said the circumstances of his resignation were "extremely controversial".

He said the situation would cause "great distress" to members "as they have to myself and colleagues on the management committee".

He referred to the financial difficulties "so many of our members are facing" at a time when GPs are to sustain another fees cut.

"His contract was negotiated many years ago and in a form which left the organisation very exposed to changing economic circumstances and changes in legislation, particularly in respect of pension provision and salary increases."

He said Mr McNeice started discussions with the organisation some time ago about the provisions of his retirement and a review followed – including the organisation's liabilities.

The IMO was told it would not win any legal challenge and had to start intensive negotiations. Members of the management committee were "appalled at the circumstances". The agreement secured a 50pc reduction in the legal liability as per the original contract.

He said the union remains in a very strong financial position and has the resources needed to represent its members.

Interim management, made up mostly of working doctors, has been put in place. A special meeting of IMO members has been organised for Saturday January 12.

A spokesman for the IMO declined to comment last night.

Dr McKeown said before "this episode," he had started a review of the governance procedures at the union. "I have now extended the terms of reference of that review to include specifically a review of all processes, practices and procedures around the issue of remuneration to ensure that nothing like this can ever happen again. There needs to be clear transparence and full risk assessment in respect of key contracts in the future," he added.

The matter was trending on Twitter yesterday, with one doctor saying he would resign. Another senior consultant said no specialist could look forward to that kind of remuneration.

The union's headquarters is in Fitzwilliam Place, Dublin, where it has extended offices for many years. Its annual report showed income from subscriptions has been dropping. It received €3.6m in members' subscriptions in 2011 down from €4.4m in 2010. It had an operating profit of €327,360 last year.

Irish Independent

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