Student nurses are calling on the Health Minister to raise their pay when they graduate from college.
The starting rate on the current graduate programme is €22,000 per year – equivalent to €10.85 per hour. However, USI representatives say nurses are being paid only €6.49 per hour for the first nine months of their employment on an internship scheme.
That's well below the minimum wage of €8.65 per hour.
Nurses currently paid €6.49 per hour during their placement are being paid about 60% of their graduate salary. In previous years, they were paid about 80%.
The union is calling for the €22,000 entry salary to be raised to its previous level of €26,000 for a 39-hour working week. It claims graduate nurses could earn up €43,614 in Canada and other foreign markets.
However, a union spokesperson said they are not initially calling for changes to the €6.49 / hour internship wage.
"This drop in starting salary is actively encouraging young graduate nurses to emigrate," said USI President Joe O'Connor.
"Our hospitals need nurses to stay in Ireland to work. Understaffing is already a massive issue in the healthcare sector; conditions need to change now, starting with increasing the starting wage. Everyone has a right to a living wage, especially hard working nurses”.