Hospital doctors to ballot on industrial action after talks break down

The dispute centres around the restoration of a €3,000 'living out allowance'

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File photo. Image: Andrew Matthews / PA Wire/Press Association Images

The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) is to ballot hospital doctors for industrial action as it claims its talks with the government have collapsed.

Following a High Court agreement last month, the IMO had been involved in discussions with government departments and the HSE over the 'living out allowance' for new entrant doctors.

The dispute between the groups centres around the restoration of the allowance - worth around €3,000 a year - that was abolished in 2012.

It entitled junior doctors to a weekly stipend of €61 per week if a hospital did not provide its own free accommodation.

In a statement today, the IMO claims the government and health officials have "completely disengaged from discussions" and breached a High Court agreement.

The organisation, which represents around 3,000 non-consultant hospital doctors, says it will now ballot members for industrial action while also pursuing the matter in the High Court.

Dr John Duddy, President of the IMO, said: “It is just a further example of the lack of respect for doctors and ignoring the crisis we have in retaining doctors in Ireland. It is typical of Government to reach agreements and breach them within a matter of weeks.

"Doctors will have no choice now but to consider all avenues to have our issues resolved including industrial action. No doctor wants to strike and indeed it would be with great reluctance that we would embark on such an action but in the face of a Government that behaves in such a manner we will have no choice," he adds.

In a statement from the Department of Health, the Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe and the Minister for Health Simon Harris said they are committed to engagement with the IMO on matters of mutual concern.

The statement said: "The particular issue of the ‘Living Out Allowance’ which is under consideration by both parties involves potentially significant exchequer resources which have not been provided for in either the current or next year’s budgetary provision. Accordingly, this issue would need to be considered in the context of wider Public Sector engagement."