Nurses have voted by a huge majority to reject proposals by the Government-appointed Public Service Pay Commission.
Phil Ní Sheaghdha, the general secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, said the result was not surprising.
In a ballot of the INMO’s membership, 94% rejected proposals from employers to address the recruitment and retention crisis in nursing and midwifery.
The voter turnout was 54% and an INMO spokesperson said it was happy with the response.
The INMO’s executive council will meet on Monday, November 5, to consider the issue of industrial action.
The commission rejected calls by nurses for an across-the-board pay rise and that discussions under way on new entrant salary scales would help deal with the recruitment and retention problem.
However, it believed there was a case for providing additional incentives for nurses and midwives to remain in the public health service.
It recommended a 20% increase in location and specialist allowances and extending the location allowance to maternity services.
Currently, a location allowance (€1,858) is paid to nurses in 13 service areas throughout the health service, including the emergency department and theatre.
There is also a specialist qualification allowance (€2,791) currently paid to nurses who have acquired postgraduate qualifications.
Ms Ní Sheaghdha said the proposals would “do nothing“ to address the short staffing and appalling working conditions nurses and midwives face every day.
Members felt abandoned and put upon by being forced to care for an increasing number of patients in poor and dangerous working conditions, she said.
Ms Ní Sheaghdha said the HSE had failed to produce a funded workforce plan this year identifying the number of nurses they were prepared to recruit.
There are over 1,000 vacant positions on a daily basis,” she said. “We now require direct dialogue with the Government if a dispute is to be avoided.
INMO president Martina Harkin-Kelly said the ballot should send a strong wake-up call to the Government, which was “sleepwalking” into a serious industrial dispute.
Nurses who are members of the Psychiatric Nurses Association also voted overwhelmingly to reject proposals by the commission.
The PNA will meet next month to seek a mandate for industrial action, up to and including a strike.
It said the commission had “failed completely” to understand the scale of the recruitment and retention crisis in mental health services.
PNA general secretary Peter Hughes said it was “extremely disappointed” with the findings of the commission and its “totally inadequate” proposals.
He said the PNA had identified 700 nursing vacancies in mental health services across the country and the anger that nurses felt was reflected in the ballot.
The PNA has urged the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to engage with it ahead of its meeting to decide on industrial action in a bid to resolve the issue.
Meanwhile, there were 542 admitted patients waiting for a hospital bed yesterday, according to the INMO.
There were 382 patients waiting in emergency departments while 160 were on wards.
The worst-hit hospitals were University Hospital Limerick, with 52 patients waiting, and University Hospital Galway and Cork University Hospital, each with 47 waiting.
University Hospital Waterford had 44 patients waiting for a free bed.
The overall figure of 542 patients waiting is the highest so far this month.