A pay rise has been sanctioned from March 1 for student nurses and midwives who had been earning less than the minimum wage following cuts imposed by government during the economic crisis.
The move, which will affect approximately 1,400 student nurses, will see their pay rise from a minimum of €6.86 per hour to €9.48.
Nursing unions and the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) have welcomed the revised arrangements which they say should help retain student nurses in the workforce. Research by USI found that 93% of student nurses have thought about emigrating when they qualify.
The pay restoration package, negotiated by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) and SIPTU also provides for restoration of incremental credit upon graduation.
In 2011/12 the Government unilaterally reduced the pay of fourth year students working full-time on wards on a compulsory 36- week clinical placement. Incremental credit for this period was also withdrawn. However the new arrangement means that during the 36-week placement, student pay will equal 70% of the staff nurse scale or €9.48 per hour (up from 55% of the first point of the staff nurse scale in 2013), while 16 weeks after graduation, the newly-registered nurse/midwife will move to the second point of the scale (€29,497) which represents an increase of over €2,000. The 36-week hospital training placement will also be recognised officially as time served for the incremental scale.
INMO general secretary Liam Doran said the pay restoration “moves some way to correct a serious wrong done to young nurses and midwives in 2011/12”.
The PNA said the agreement would “hopefully result in the retention and recruitment of graduate nurses into the Irish health system”.
PNA research and development advisor Aisling Culhane said the cuts had been “a travesty” and had “added significantly to the difficulties in recruiting and retaining world class Irish graduate nurses”.
SIPTU nursing sector organiser, Kevin Figgis said the increase in student nurses and midwives pay was a “necessary step to encourage them that they have a future in the Irish health system and that their contribution is valued”.
All three nursing unions as well as the USI have pledged to continue to pursue the outstanding issue of granting retrospective incremental credit for the graduate classes of 2011 - 2015.
The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has agreed to set up a review of the effects of the reduction of this incremental credit on the ability of the health service to retain and recruit qualifying nurses and midwives.
INMO director of industrial relations Phil Ni Sheaghdha said the unions were “completely committed” to ensuring nurses who graduated between 2011-2015 “receive the same benefit as those qualifying in 2016”.
Minister for Health Leo Varadkar and Minister of State Kathleen Lynch said it was a reflection of the improving economic circumstances that the Government was in a position to improve pay. The cost of implementing the student nurses’ pay increase in 2016 is approximately €3.5 million and about €4.8m in a full year.
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