Limerick hospitals dispute: LRC talks break down as management reveals plans to retain €250k consultant with lighter duties

Labour Relations Commission (LRC) talks between IMPACT and management broke down this afternoon (Wednesday) after management said it planned to retain a consultant on a salary of over €250,000 a year while reducing his responsibilities.

IMPACT said management had told today’s LRC hearing that it hoped to fill the role of operations manager – currently being performed by the consultant – in September. The consultant, who is employed through a private sector management company called Starline, would then be assigned to a ‘facilities management’ role at least until the end of 2014. IMPACT says a directly-employed manager in this reduced role would earn as little as €80,000 a year.

IMPACT official Andy Pike told the LRC it would be reasonable for the expensive consultant to be off the books entirely by the end of September at the latest. “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,” he said.

The dispute, now in its second week, has seen IMPACT members refuse to report to, or cooperate with, the consultancy-supplied manager. Their work-to-rule means staff are refusing to acknowledge his instructions, provide data to him, co-operate with changes directed by his office, or agree to relocate, redeploy or change assignments if instructed. IMPACT says the action is not affecting service delivery, but has warned that it could escalate if staff are penalised for refusing to work with the consultant.

The action was supported in a ballot by 90% of the IMPACT members in Ennis general hospital, Limerick regional hospital, limerick maternity hospital, Croom orthopaedic hospital and Nenagh general hospital.