Sunday 22 September 2019

Thousands of nurses and midwives to get pay rise as increments restored

Minister for Health Simon Harris. Photo: Douglas O'Connor
Minister for Health Simon Harris. Photo: Douglas O'Connor

Kevin Doyle and Anne Marie Walsh

Around 7,500 nurses and midwives are to get pay increments worth €1,500-a-year in a deal aimed at preventing further industrial action.

The Irish Independent understands that Health Minister Simon Harris will today sign-off on the restoration of increments which were stalled during the economic crash.

Graduates who entered the workforce between 2011 and 2015 have claimed that despite being more experienced they are worse off than recent graduates who are entitled to the regular pay increases.

Hundreds of nurses from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, the Psychiatric Nurses Association and SIPTU took part protested outside Leinster House last month.

And concern was growing in government circles that they would take their protest to the picket lines along with gardaí, who are due to withdraw their services next month in a separate row over pay.

The pay increases were first implemented in 2002, but unilaterally stopped by the Government in 2011.

Until then it was paid to nurses and midwives who complete a 36-week clinical placement or internship as part of their degree course.

Mr Harris is to meet with representative of the nurses and midwives today where it is expected that he will table an offer that would see the increments reintroduced from January.

The Department of Health had previously agreed to reinstate the payments but the Department of Public Expenditure blocked the move. A compromise has now been found.

"There was an anomaly in the pay scale which wasn't fair. Sometime similar was recently done for teachers and young guards," said a source.

They noted that there are considerable problems recruiting and retaining nurses in the Irish health system and further measures would be needed to make nursing and midwifery an attractive career.

"It's a step in the right direction but not a panacea in terms of the problems nurses are facing," a source said.

Meanwhile, the country's largest union has called for a new pay commission to set out a clear timeline to fast-track pay rises for public servants.

Siptu said it wants a new Public Sector Pay Commission to make it clear when €2bn cuts taken during the crash will be fully restored.

Its demands will put further pressure on the government to speed up public service pay rises as rank and file gardaí prepare to go on strike next month after demanding full pay restoration.

The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors will consider joining them in a campaign of industrial action at a meeting next Monday.

Like Siptu, it has signed up to the Lansdowne Road deal, but has since lodged a claim for a 16.5pc pay rise and accused the government of reneging on its side of the deal.

Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe said during his Budget speech that €290m had been set aside for pay increases agreed under the Lansdowne Road Agreement to restore public sector pay cuts.

Irish Independent

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