THE government has shot down claims that it is about to table a new pay offer for over 40,000 nurses to avert six planned strikes.
eneral Secretary of the Psychiatric Nurses Association, Peter Hughes, claimed department officials would table proposals on Monday to bring nurses’ wages in line with other professions at a meeting today.
But Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe’s department said there is "no basis or validity" to claims that the management side is about to table fresh proposals.
Health Minister Simon Harris said the any solution would have to be found within the framework of the public service pay deal, which rules out cost-increasing claims.
They were speaking after talks between health sector management and nursing unions kicked off earlier today in a bid to resolve the pay dispute.
Nurses plan a 24-hour strike on January 30, to be followed by five other dates next month.
They want wage hikes in the region of 12pc to put their pay on a par with other healthcare staff including radiographers, and claim there is a recruitment and retention crisis.
Government ministers have warned they will not improve on a €20m offer for nurses in specialised grades.
A spokesperson at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform said “there is no basis or validity” to Mr Hughes’ comments in relation to management pay proposals.
“The position continues to be that under the terms of the Public Service Stability Agreement, there can be no cost-increasing claims for improvements in the pay and conditions of public servants.”
She said the nursing unions’ pay demands are “precluded” under the terms of the deal.
Health Minister Simon Harris said there was agreement at today’s meeting that all parties wanted to work together to avoid industrial action.
However, he said any solution to the row must be found within the framework of the public service pay agreement.
Earlier, Peter Hughes said that overtime and spending on agency staff would be used to offset the cost of government proposals.
“The employers are going off and coming back to us on Monday and they have promised that they will come with proposals in relation to parity with therapy grades using overtime and agency costs, the extreme cost of overtime and agency, to offset any parity,” he said.
General Secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, Phil Ní Sheaghdha, said that the HSE and Department of Health has confirmed that they will have firm proposals on Monday.
She said strike preparations will continue in the meantime.
“We keep reminding them that the clock is ticking... There is a national dispute pending in 14 days times."
She said there is general agreement that the cost savings that are required are very visible from agency spend, the costs associated with incorrectly staffing wards, and overtime costs.
“And they have agreed that these matters must be addressed and are now going back to their principals to have further discussions,” she said.
“We will be here on Monday and firm proposals will be required. I think it is very disappointing that 14 days out from a strike that we have to once again point out where the employer can save money and they agree with us, that there are massive savings to be made within the health service, but now they have to go back to their principals.”
Meanwhile, the IMNO is due to meet HSE officials tomorrow to discuss contingency plans for the strikes.