Nurses say they will strike for pay parity

Nurses have threatened to disrupt the health service if the Government fails to address demands for pay parity with other health professionals in upcoming talks.

With just 10 days to go to the opening of negotiations on a successor to the Landsdowne Road Agreement, the Irish Nurses’ and Midwives’ Organisation (INMO) has warned that failure to deal with their grievances will cause widespread industrial unrest.

“If you don’t do it, you won’t have three years of peace and stability, that’s guaranteed,” said INMO general secretary Liam Doran.

Nurses and midwives at the union’s annual delegate conference, in Wexford, voted overwhelmingly in favour of an emergency motion directing the executive council to seek separate negotiations within the upcoming pay talks. These negotiations would address pay, recruitment, and retention.

The motion includes a direction to council to ballot members on whatever proposals emerge from the talks. A caveat is that acceptance be recommended only if substantial progress is made on pay restoration and on parity of pay and working hours with allied health professionals.

Mr Doran told delegates he was of the view that “you solve problems around the table”, but that if the talks failed to deliver, “we’ll do whatever we have to do to deliver the just deserts”.

The message to government was: “We want our money back. You took it,” Mr Doran said, to cheers from around the room.

As nurses queued to speak to the motion, following the suspension of standing orders, Sean O’Ceallaigh, a nurse in the emergency department at the Midlands Regional Hospital, in Mullingar, said he wanted a pay scale “that reflects our responsibility. I’ve worked in the emergency department for four years and there are people cleaning the floors who are earning more than me”, he said.

Geraldine Talty, a nurse at the Midlands Regional Hospital, Tullamore, said nurses remained “the lowest paid of all the health care professionals”, despite being “the only ones to work a 39-hour week”. Moreover, workloads were increasing and more work was being brought home. “Next thing we’ll be bringing home is the patients,” she said.

INMO executive council member Mary Leahy said despite nurses completing a four-year degree, in line with other health professionals, they were paid “12-15% less. On average, after five years, we are paid €5,500 less than similarly qualified, allied health professionals”.

Figures presented by INMO industrial relations chief, Phil Ní Sheaghdha, showed that a staff nurse earned a salary of €34,666 after five years, compared to €40,009 for an occupational therapist; €38,344 for a radiographer, and €39,168 for a respiratory technician. Nurses were also worse off than teachers and gardaí after five years — with teachers earning €40,551, and gardaí earning €42,310.

The figures formed part of the INMO submission to the Public Service Pay Commission, which is expected to report to the Government on Monday.

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