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Updated: Health Minister will engage with IMO as junior doctors vote on industrial action

The ongoing dispute centres on the restoration of an agreed €3000 “living-out” allowance.

Junior doctors during their last industrial action taken in 2013
Junior doctors during their last industrial action taken in 2013
Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

Updated: 20:05

THE IRISH MEDICAL Organisation (IMO) has confirmed that junior doctors are set to be balloted on taking industrial action following a breakdown in talks with the Government.

A statement from the Department of Health this evening said the Minister is committed to engaging with the IMO and its demands.

However, it said what it is asking for would cost a significant amount.

The dispute centres on doctors seeking the restoration of a €3,000 “living-out” allowance, which was paid in cases where their hospitals did not provide accommodation for those with on-call duties.

This evening’s statement read: “Both the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, and his colleague the Minister for Health are committed to engagement with the IMO on matters of mutual concern.

“The particular issue of the Living Out Allowance which is under consideration by both parties (management and IMO) 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.

Junior doctors have been in an ongoing dispute with the government over the withdrawal of the €60-a-week payment in 2012.

In late October, the Department of Health and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform agreed in the High Court to enter talks with the IMO.

According to the IMO, however, both departments “disengaged” from these talks today, and “effectively breached the agreement reached at the High Court.”

Dr John Duddy, president of the IMO, called this move “a further example of the lack of respect for doctors” and said “it is typical of Government to reach agreements and breach them within a matter of weeks.”

He added that “no doctor wants to strike” and that it would be with “great reluctance” that they would choose such a course, but its members are prepared to do so.

Ireland’s junior doctors went on strike for the first time in a quarter of a century in 2013, amid calls to reduce their working week as well as calls for sanctions placed on hospitals that impose shifts of over 24 hours.

With reporting by Garreth MacNamee

Read: Trouble and strike: Junior doctors are the latest group to threaten strike action

Read: Poll: Should the Lansdowne Road Agreement be replaced?

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Sean Murray

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