Nursing unions say the HSE initiative to hire 1,000 graduate nurses at 80% of previous salaries is a cheap labour scam.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives’ Organisation (INMO) and the Psychiatric Nurses’ association (PNA) have called for a boycott of the new graduate scheme.
Under the scheme nurses will start on €22,000 a year instead of the current €26,000 and have two-year contracts instead of permanent positions.
The move is part of a government plan to cut €10m from the HSE bill by reducing the reliance on agency staff.
INMO general secretary Liam Doran described the scheme as nothing more than exploitation and opportunism that would drive nurses to work abroad where they could get better paid nursing jobs.
He claimed the HSE had directed hospitals to terminate all existing contracts for 2012 graduates immediately so they are forced to reapply to do the same job at 80% of the salary rate.
“No matter how you dress that up; that is exploitation; that is cheap labour and that is wrong,” he said.
He said young nurses and midwives, who had their starting salary cut by 24%, had contributed more than their fair share towards the country’s recovery.
PNA general secretary Des Kavanagh, said the initiative was opportunistic and greedy.
“This must be rejected by nurses and by Irish society as an abuse of a profession which is predominantly female and devalues an acknowledged world class education system for Irish nurses,” he said.
The nursing unions, which represent 45,000 nurses and midwives, will hold a national rally of all nurses affected by the new lower pay scale in Croke Park on Jan 5.
Both unions have sought a joint meeting with Health Minister James Reilly and Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin.
Mr Doran said they wanted the ministers to “see sense” before advertising the jobs on Jan 11 next.
The unions also intend exploring the possibility of a legal challenge under the Employment Equality Acts.
HSE national director of human resources, Barry O’Brien, said he found it difficult to understand the INMO’s reaction to the initiative because in the past unions had criticised the health authority for not retaining graduates in the health services, leaving them with no other option but to go abroad for work.
80% pay, 100% care
Nurse graduate Maria Maher Coonan, from Co Tipperary, is due to start an internship in a Dublin hospital in January.
“When I finish my internship I will only be offered a job at 80% of the previous starting salary — €22,000 a year.
“I have a part-time job in a nursing home on which I would earn the same salary over a year working holidays and weekends.”
Maria said she would like to stay in Ireland as she is in a long-term relationship. “If the plan to cut salaries goes ahead I won’t be able to stay in the country because I don’t think it is possible for anyone to work for that kind of wage.”
Newly fledged psychiatric nurse Sarah Potter, from Galway, works in West Galway Mental Health Services.
Her contract finishes at the end of the month.
“I was offered another contract up to Jan 31 but that has been revoked. I am applying for my English registration because I don’t have any choice. I am qualified now and to be expected to go from the first point on the pay scale back to 80%, with 100% of the responsibility is a bit unfair.”
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