The MLSA and staff panel of healthcare unions have been in discussions with the HSE throughout the Christmas period and into January about the current extreme pressures in acute hospitals. The unions have sought proper local and national engagement on any changes to services. The HSE undertook in late December to prepare a composite plan for how services can be further supported but has not delivered any such details to date. Following the request last week from the HSE Chief Clinical Officer for hospitals to operate on a seven-day basis for the month of January, the HSE issued a memo late on Friday evening January 6th with details on how healthcare workers volunteering for additional overtime at weekends should be recompensed.
The measures include a rate of double time for additional hours worked on weekends in January 2023, as well as time in lieu of 50% of the hours worked. However, the HSE has decided unilaterally to impose a minimum 8-hour shift length before these enhanced rates will apply. To date the MLSA has not been contacted by members with concerns about the resulting workload demands and staffing. We await feedback from agents on how the situation is impacting on laboratory staff and will address any serious concerns raised with us directly with HSE National Employee Relations.
The unions and the HSE are in agreement that any such measures are exceptional, do not create a precedent for routine seven-day working and participation is on a voluntary basis.