The Department of Health has said that a claim for better pay and working conditions lodged by nurses would cost the taxpayer an estimated €1bn.
The claim is due to be thrashed out between the Irish Nurses Organisation (INO) and officials from the Health Service Executive at the Labour Relations Commission shortly.
The wide-ranging document, lodged by the INO, includes claims for a 35-hour working week, an allowance for nurses working in Dublin and parity with childcare workers for the country’s 33,000 nurses.
But the Health Department said that a 35-hour week would mean an extra 4,000 nurses would have to be recruited at a cost of about €194m.
A spokesperson added the "Dublin allowance" - the INO are requesting an extra €3,800 a year for nurses working in the capital - would cost an extra €50m.
As it stands, the total annual bill for nurses pay is just over €2bn.
If the INO achieve parity with childcare workers, it would give nurses a starting salary of €30,000 a year.
President of the INO, Madeline Spiers said to members that they should “make no apologies” for wanting better work conditions and added that the organisation has been seeking some of these changes since the 1980s.