TALKS to resolve a dispute over executive pay between management and administrative staff at the UL Hospitals Group have broken down at the Labour Relations Commission this Wednesday afternoon.
Trade union Impact, which is representing about 500 hospital staff across the region who are in the second week of a work-to-rule, said a compromise proposal from management had served “only to make the situation worse”.
The HSE/UL Hospitals Group could not be contacted for comment on the breakdown in the discussions at the time of going to press this Wednesday.
The dispute centres around chief operations manager at UL Hospitals Group, Liam Casey, and his appointment through a management consultancy firm, Starline.
Staff have objected to an arrangement which Impact says effectively sees Mr Casey being paid a salary of €250,000, far in excess of public sector pay guidelines.
But public pay caps did not apply to persons appointed under consultancy contracts, the Department of Public Expenditure has also said.
Staff frustration over Mr Casey’s contract had seen over 90% of those balloted at University Hospital Limerick, Limerick Maternity Hospital, Croom Orthopaedic, Ennis and Nenagh hospitals vote in favour of industrial action.
That has taken the form of a work-to-rule and, since last week, Impact members have refused to take instructions Mr Casey, the union said.
Nor will they “provide data to him, co-operate with changes directed by his office, or agree to relocate, redeploy or change assignments if instructed”.
The union last week accepted an invitation from the HSE to go to the Labour Relations Commission.
But those discussions collapsed on Wednesday after what the union described as a management proposal to retain Mr Casey under the current arrangement - “and a salary of €250,000” - while reducing his responsibilities.
HSE director general Tony O’Brien had previously said the role of chief operations manager had proven difficult to fill when advertised and “an agency approach” had been adopted.
And it was the HSE’s intention to readvertise the post, he told the Dail’s Public Accounts Committee last month.
Impact’s Andy Pike said management had this Wednesday proposed filling the chief operations manager role in September but retaining Mr Casey in a facilities management role until the end of the year.
A directly employed manager in this reduced role would earn as little as €80,000 a year, according to the trade union.
“To be blunt, management’s proposal seems designed to further frustrate staff and taxpayers and make this situation worse. I’d hoped for a rational and realistic proposal for staffing. Sadly that has not happened and our industrial action must continue,” said Impact official Andy Pike.
While both management and union have said the action is not affecting patient care in Limerick, Impact has warned that it could escalate if staff are penalised for refusing to work with Mr Casey.