First, I wish to clarify that the HSE submission was not to the Public Service Pay Commission but instead came to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform through the Department of Health to assist with preparation of a joint employer submission.
I also wish to clarify that, when requested by the pay commission, my Department made the HSE internal submission available to it in June 2018 and it was considered in the preparation of its report, published in September 2018. I understand that both the HSE and the joint employer submissions are available on the website of the pay commission.
It is longstanding practice that the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, and before it the Department of Finance, represents the public service as employer.
The Department has the responsibility for co-ordinating, articulating and submitting the employer case in such matters on behalf of the Government as employer. This is absolutely essential to ensure consistency and coherence in approach.
The employer submission compiled by this Department is based on data and inputs from a broad range of sources, including material submitted to the Department by both the Department of Health and the HSE.
It should be said that the joint employer submission to the pay commission reflects evidence presented by the HSE, particularly the increase year on year in absolute numbers of nurses and midwives, over and above the level required to simply replace leavers and retirees. Since December 2013, the public service has now recruited an additional 3,876 nurses.
The pay commission is completely independent and comprises seven individuals with a vast experience of human resources and industrial relations in the private and public sectors and in the trade union movement.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House.
It forensically examined all the evidence from the employer side and from the staff side.
Its considered conclusion is that there are no generalised recruitment and retention difficulties in respect of nursing and midwifery. The report states that the commission was not persuaded, based on the evidence available, that pay arrangements were in themselves a significant impediment to recruitment and that current pay rates do not appear to be unduly affecting the number of nurses, midwives and doctors applying to work abroad.
In respect of nurses and midwives it considered that the national levels of nursing and midwifery turnover rates do not indicate a generalised retention crisis and that the available evidence suggests that none of the turnover rates reported are significantly out of line with those experienced in private sector employment generally.
Instead it recommended a targeted package to incentivise nurses and midwives to work in certain areas, a recommendation which the Government has accepted and which remains on the table alongside the other pay benefits of the public service stability agreement and the significant measures agreed with ICTU on new entrant salary scales.