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Labour Court upholds IMO proposal to move AMOs to SAMO grade/scale

By Niamh Cahill - 17th Nov 2023

The Labour Court has upheld a claim by the IMO in a significant development to the long-running dispute between area medical officers (AMOs) and the HSE.

The decision concerns the claim lodged by the IMO in relation to the interpretation of the sectoral bargaining clause in the public service pay agreement Building Momentum.

A sectoral fund, amounting to one per cent of basic pay, outlined in the agreement can be used to resolve outstanding disputes related to specific grades and groups of public sector workers.

According to the agreement, sectoral bargaining relates to “negotiations within sectors to progress reforms and resolve issues between the parties”.

“The agreement provides for the establishment of a sectoral fund amounting to 1 per cent of basic pay to resolve any outstanding issues.”

The IMO argued it was entitled to use the remainder of the sectoral bargaining fund to give an uplift to all doctors earning less than €150,000.

The Labour Court upheld the claim in relation to AMOs, community ophthalmic physicians, and specialist occupation health physicians.

In a letter to members following the decision, the IMO said its position “in relation to the principles and criteria in respect of the funding and also recommend that the proposals in this regard, agreed between the IMO and Department of Health/HSE be implemented”.

The letter added that the IMO had sought an urgent meeting with the HSE and Department of Health “with a view to implementing the Labour Court recommendations”. 

Between 16 and 20 AMOs, or community health doctors, currently work across Ireland. AMOs are doctors who work in various HSE community health services nationally.

Since 2003 the number of AMOs has been declining and some community medical departments are already without any AMO. 

New structures were introduced in 2004 resulting in no further AMO recruitment. The restructuring process resulted in an inequality among AMO and senior area medical officer (SAMO) positions.

Although, both posts involve similar duties in immunisation and child health services, SAMOs are paid more than AMOs.

AMOs sought improved pay and conditions on a par with their colleagues.

An IMO spokesperson told the paper the Labour Court has now upheld the IMO’s proposal to move all current AMOs to the SAMO grade/scale on a point-to-point basis.

“Further to the Labour Court hearing we are engaging with the HSE and Department of Health to implement the ruling which provided for the original agreed proposals to be implemented. Following this engagement we hope to update members with further detail of implementation,” an IMO spokesperson said.

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