Bernie Mullins, 29, a graduate nurse in Limerick Regional Hospital, earned nearly the same amount of money stacking mascara as she now does nursing.

“I worked in a pharmacy before I did nursing and I got nearly the same wages as I am now for no more responsibility than checking was the mascara stocked on a shelf. I’m sick of it now,” she said.

She was speaking at a nursing protest outside Dáil Éireann yesterday, that was calling for the restoration of an incremental credit for nurses who graduated between 2011 and 2015.

These graduates earn up to €1,400 less than their colleagues who graduated before or after this time period.

“I graduated last September 2015. I went back as a mature student to do nursing,” said Ms Mullins.

“When I worked in a pharmacy I was nearly paid the same as what I’m paid now for responsibilities like make-up, creams and conditioners. Now I’ve the responsibility of chasing after pharmacists for mistakes, doctors’ mistakes. Doctors might see a patient for five minutes of a day maybe nurses are the only ones who are there 24-7. We save patients.”

She explained how much she was earning now and what her prospects for the future are as a result of her pay.

“I get €13.50 an hour. Working in the pharmacy was my full-time job before I made the decision to go back because I wanted to better myself. I got €10.50 an hour in the pharmacy, but there was no responsibility. Most people in my class now work an extra shift on top of the 39-hour week. What I bring home a week would be about €440.

“I’m doing my master’s and I’ll be finished that in May next year and after that I’ll go and probably get about €60,000 in Dubai or somewhere.

“I don’t want to leave. I’ve done travelling when I was younger. I like my family. I want to stay here and work in Ireland. I don’t want to leave but there’s no justification for myself, I keep justifying to myself. I can’t stay here for those wages anymore, not for the responsibility,” she told the Irish Examiner.

Another graduate nurse at yesterday’s protest was mother-of-three Audrey Heagney, who works in Connolly Hospital. She too fell into the 2011-2015 pay-gap trap that Ms Mullins is affected by.

“I’ve three kids. I went back and paid fees. I graduated in 2014. I started to work and I didn’t have the option like so many graduates out there of leaving the country because I’d a mortgage and family at home. I couldn’t up everybody and move abroad.

“It’s very disheartening for us because we’re not valued by the Government and we should be valued: we’re frontline staff, we do a hard job and we should be rewarded for that,” said Ms Heagney.

The two nurses were joined by hundreds of other nurses of all ages and nationalities at yesterday’s demonstration.

For more than an hour, the assembled crowd roared, “address graduate pay, give us a reason to stay,” towards the front facade of Leinster House.

Various speakers took the podium giving rousing speeches to the assembly of nurses.

“Give yourselves the biggest cheer. This is just the beginning, we have been treated like slaves and we are not putting up with it anymore. Money talks or our feet walk,” said one of the speakers.

Nurses travelled from all over the country to attend yesterday’s protest, with some coming straight from night-duty or swapping shifts to make the demonstration.

“We’re not going to take things lying down anymore. We’ve been trod on and stood on and frankly abused,” said Ms Mullins.


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