A CONTROVERSIAL 'yellowpack' worker scheme for nurses is to be extended to other grades of staff by the Health Service Executive (HSE).
The HSE is now free to start recruiting staff on two-year contracts as "interns" on lower salaries, instead of permanent and contract workers.
The scheme, introduced for graduate nurses earlier this year, will be extended to grades such as healthcare assistants, care assistants, cleaners, porters and other domestic staff.
They will earn €21,741, which amounts to 85pc of the first point of a band three salary, in the first year, and this will be increased to 90pc in year two.
The HSE, which secured the go-ahead to extend the scheme under the Haddington Road agreement, will make significant pay savings under it.
Health Minister James Reilly has now issued approval for the scheme and up to 1,000 workers could be hired under its terms.
It will allow the HSE to fill gaps in different services without having to pay full pay or add to the permanent workforce.
The Government has decided that the numbers employed across the public service – including the health sector – must be reduced in order to meet its fiscal and budgetary targets.
This policy requires the health service to reduce its workforce to 98,938 wholetime equivalent employees (WTEs) by the end of 2013.
The scheme sparked a boycott by nurses' unions earlier this year when it was introduced and only nine nurses had taken up work in hospitals under its terms by July.
Another 60 nurses were assigned locations in various hospitals and a number of these have since taken up duty.
The scheme was launched in January, offering graduate nurses a two-year contract on annual pay of €22,000 – 80pc of the normal starting salary – with potential to earn another €4,000 in premium pay.
The terms of the scheme were improved under the Haddington Road agreement with the salary rate raised to 85pc in the first year and 90pc in the second year.
It has since been accepted by unions and a major drive will be made to recruit from new nursing graduates who finish their studies this autumn.
It is seen as an alternative for nurses who do not want to go abroad to work – currently the only option available to most graduates.
The total number employed in the public health sector at the end of August 2013 was 100,578, a fall of 928 from the 2012 outturn of 101,506.
An incentivised career break scheme was rolled out in the HSE earlier this year and 360 staff were accepted, earning €12,000 annually over three years.
A targeted voluntary redundancy scheme in the HSE and in organisations funded by the HSE has also been approved.