The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) has admitted there is "no good time" to strike, after public health doctors voted overwhelmingly in favour of three days of strike action in January.
They say they are disappointed at 'no meaningful engagement' from the Department of Health for five months.
They add this is not simply about a pay claim, but also about recognising the importance of consultants leading multi-disciplinary teams in a fully resourced public health service.
Dr Ina Kelly is chair of the Irish Medical Organisation's (IMO) Public Health and Community Health sector.
She told Newstalk Breakfast this is a long-standing issue.
"We had report after report over the last 20 years recommending equality between consultant-level doctors getting a consultant contract.
"At the moment we don't have such a contract - we're not employed to do consultant-level work, though we do that and a lot of it is out of good will".
Dr Kelly said consultant contracts, and a public health reform process, were supposed to be implemented as part of a report in July 2020.
"However since January 2019, we haven't met with the Department of Health - we recognise the fact that with the pandemic there'd be some delays.
"However we feel we've gone backwards".
But Dr Kelly admitted "there's no good time" to strike.
"We have a very small workforce, too few of us in a way, and we're going to have a retention problem - we're going to lose doctors.
"So if we wait, if we put this on the long finger again, we're just going to lose doctors and have fewer doctors able to provide the service".
She said recruitment here is an issue because "we're not competitive, it's not an attractive branch of medicine in Ireland".
Dr Kelly added that their role is important, but not always visible.
"We have huge clinical responsibility and autonomy to protect the health of the population.
"We are the group of people who have the health security responsibilities for Ireland, especially in relation to biological threats".
"People don't always see it, it's quite invisible and it's really only when the threat becomes so massive that it becomes visible then to other people".