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The IMO will examine the possibility of industrial action if the HSE’s “promise” of initiating intern induction pay this year is not realised, according to IMO Director of Industrial Relations, NCHDs and Consultants, Mr Anthony Owens.
Speaking to the Medical Independent (MI) at the Organisation’s AGM in Killarney, Mr Owens also referred to a series of cases the IMO has taken to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) on behalf of interns over this issue.
Mr Owens confirmed that industrial action is one of the options to address the matter. On whether this would be a national action, if initiated, Mr Owens said: “We’d have to see; obviously our NCHD committee would make that determination… I know the NCHD committee are very, very clear on this, this has to stop, a line has to be drawn on this.”
The union’s goal is that induction pay will commence for the cohort starting in July, which Mr Owens said was promised by HSE National Doctors Training and Planning and must be honoured.
According to Mr Owens, “you only get one chance to make a decent first impression” and being compelled to work for free for two weeks in the Irish health service “is a pretty bad first impression”.
“We will be seeking engagement on this urgently, to ensure those due to join the system in July are paid,” he told MI.
Earlier, HSE National Director of Human Resources Ms Rosarii Mannion told a forum with NCHDs: “My line on this is very simple. And I am obviously not holding the purse strings here, every payment we make must be approved by both the Department of Health and DPER but my line…if you are at your place of work at the request of the employer, you must be paid.”
Ms Mannion said she hoped the matter could be addressed in the next few weeks.
“We absolutely cannot stand by and see things that are impeding our workforce and not try and address them in a genuine way.”
However, in response, NCHD Committee Chair Dr Paddy Hillery said: “You and your colleagues in the HSE and Department of Health agree with us that when interns are required to attend for intern induction, they should be paid. However, just a few weeks ago, you told us there was no money available to do so….”
He said interns working for no pay was “inexcusable and we will not allow it to continue”.
“The incoming group of interns are organised and our membership from intern to consultant is standing behind them in solidarity on this issue. Significant numbers of cases are slated to commence before the WRC on this topic and we are prepared to consider all options, up to and including industrial action, to ensure this practice ends. We wish to continue our positive engagement.”
Speaking to MI, Ms Mannion said: “There will be intensive discussions commencing immediately and hopefully we can get them resolved. I can’t give a commitment because obviously there is a huge financial implication here and a precedent that will be set, but we will engage in intensive discussions with a view to trying to move things on as far as we can.”
Later at the AGM, Minister for Health Simon Harris said if a person was directed by their employer to be at work, they deserved to be paid.