20 February 1997 Edition
Workers in struggle
Double job doctors
£13,000 pay rise not enough for consultants
Take 1,300 workers, pay them on average £60,000 a year and then let them share another £78 million, giving another £60,000 each a year. Offer these already well-paid workers wage increases that range from 6.5% to 18% with the prospect of another 8% at a later date and watch the result - a unanimous rejection along with the prospect of a strike.
The wages and conditions outlined above are those earned by 26-County hospital consultants, one of the most pampered groups in the Irish workforce. They are a group whose power and position is in stark contrast to the wages and working conditions of their nursing colleagues.
A well-paid public sector consultant will see a private patient in rooms paid for and built by the public sector funds.
Many hospital consultants are also in the enviable position of being state-subsidised and completely legitimised double jobbers. They work primarily in extremely well-paid state jobs, while at the same time they are facillitated in holding down extremely well-paid private sector jobs. An Eastern Health Board consultant has an annual salary of £56,108. They get a further £3,740 annually for being on call as well as extra payments for each patient they see when on call.
Last year the Buckley Review on hospital consultants' salaries offered wage increases that would set the basic salary of Eastern Health Board consultants at £59,600 while also including a range of other increases leaving consultants in other health board areas on salaries ranging from £62,700 to £73,900.
This however is only half a consultant's possible pay packet. In 1996 the VHI paid hospital consultants £78 million in fees, an increase of 89% over the previous six years.
In 1991 the top 100 consultants earned an average £112,882 each. Going by the 1996 figures this top 100 group would last year have taken home an average £213,000 plus each.
The VHI work can be done in private hospitals but many workers actually earn private sector fees while working in public hospitals. We asked the Department of Health about this practice and they told us that while they did provide the funding to public hospitals to pay consultant's wages it was up to the individual hospitals to determine how this work was done as well as when and how private sessions would be carried out by the consultants.
The spokesperson did point out that in the Dublin Government's health strategy it was envisaged that the operation of a private health service alongside the public service was considered to be the most efficient practice. However what has never been determined is whether this is a complimentary or parasitic relationship.
Many hospitals have private and public wards. Others have private and public hospitals built side by side, but it is just as likely that a well-paid public sector consultant will see a private patient in rooms paid for and built by the public sector funds.
Hospital consultants have rejected the proposed wage increases on their public sector earnings. They are guaranteed a 20% wage increase in fees from the VHI this year regardless of what they wrangle from the state.
Apart from the fact that the consultants are legitimised double jobbers there is also the case of how their state wages are determined. They like TDs and other so called ``higher civil servants'' have their own pay review body.
Consultants could be limited to the increases paid to workers under the Partnerhsip 2000 which would see them earning in 1997 a modest 2.5% increase. Anything else is clearly unfair and shows the double standards in public sector pay. TDs have had their claim for a 30% wage increase ignored. The consultants should receive the same treatment, or is it that they are the only ones who can dish out the bad medicine?
Banking on success
Election fever is spreading, and soon the Rainbow Coalition will be knocking on the door asking is there any chance of a number 1 in June. You could ask them about the forgotten election promise to create a third force state bank.
The recent round of banking results shows just why it is important to tap into this vital economic resource and ensure its profits are shared by all.
AIB win out in the profits league so far. Their £420 million profit last year is a record giving them £1.68 million in profits for every working day. TSB, the trust bank which the coalition cabinet cannot agree to either sell or incorporate into a third force state enterprises earned over £20 million in 1996. The EBS gave £5.7 million back to shareholders while also recording profits of £18.3 million. The state-owned ICC Bank earned £9.1 million in profits while this week the Irish Permanent announced profits of £48.6 million. There is still much more to come.