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Implementation of NCHD agreement ‘remains fragmented’

By Catherine Reilly - 16th Apr 2023

NCHD agreement

Implementation of the recent NCHD agreement with healthcare management has been “highly fragmented” to date, heard the national NCHD meeting at the IMO AGM.

The agreement, which NCHD members overwhelmingly voted to accept in December, introduced a number of measures including new rostering rules and compensatory rest stipulations.

IMO Industrial Relations Officer Ms Niamh Sweeney told the meeting: “We are committed to monitoring compliance with the new agreement. It is not good enough to be just words on paper, we need to see actions in the workplace. So, as part of our compliance monitoring we have commenced hospital visits.”

Ms Sweeney said that “there are areas that are enjoying the benefits of the agreement and this is positive”.

However, she added: “I think the overarching position at a local level is that NCHDs, and the IMO on their behalf, are still having to engage to secure these rights, and it is clear that we are not seeing a sustained and meaningful commitment from all the stakeholders at this time; that the implementation remains highly fragmented.”

She said the agreement was “not a menu that employers can pick and choose from, they are contractual rights, and any breaches of the terms of the agreement is a serious employment issue”.

The union was still seeing NCHDs routinely having to work more than 11 consecutive days, working consecutive weekends, excessive 24-hour shifts, not receiving compensatory rest, and not being paid for all hours worked.

Ms Sweeney emphasised at the meeting that the agreement represented only a first step in the journey of reforming the working lives of NCHDs.

“It is important to reiterate this is only the first step and can only be seen as a first step,” she said. Ms Sweeney also urged NCHDs to bring matters of concern to the attention of the IMO.

Dr Aidan Coffey, who was a member of the negotiating team, noted that a commitment from the Department of
Health to negotiate a new NCHD contract was part of the terms of this agreement. Dr Coffey indicated that preliminary discussions would begin in the coming weeks.

“I think it is important that this is an opportunity now for all NCHDs to formulate and articulate their vision for a contract. It is our chance to be as bold and ambitious as we want, and a good opportunity for us to look at how things are done in Australia and Canada.”

Speaking later at the AGM to the Medical Independent, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said implementation of the NCHD agreement with the IMO was “proceeding”.

He also cited the work of the Department’s NCHD taskforce, which recently published interim recommendations to improve working conditions.

“And we are looking to implement them throughout this year as the group moves on to looking at the medium- to longer-term ones.”

The taskforce was “quite clear about the need for monitoring of progress on those recommendations”, he said.

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