Nurses' pay 'too low' as HSE attempts to bring them home
The main nursing union has told a body advising the Government on its pay policy that nurses and midwives are the lowest paid profession in the health service and their wages are 10pc below some grades.
In a submission to the Public Service Pay Commission, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) argues that their pay levels are behind their counterparts in eight destinations where many are emigrating to work. Wage levels in the UK, Australia, the US, Canada and European nations are examined.
The union argues that nurses' wages should be higher as they must have an honours degree and work a longer week than some therapeutic grades whose pay is 10pc higher.
Starting salary for staff nurses and midwives is €27,211 and rises in increments to €42,469, although they also qualify for overtime and allowances.
Yesterday, the INMO met the commission to outline the labour market challenges facing nursing and midwifery.
Although the commission cannot award pay rises, it must present evidence on recruitment and retention issues in its findings to the Government.
Skype interviews, recruitment stands at airports, career breaks a year after taking a job, and a €1,500 allowance are being offered by the HSE and Department of Health to bring nurses and midwives home.
A document presented to unions this week proposes to attract those who have emigrated.
It revealed that the numbers in nursing have fallen by over 3,000 in the past 10 years although the population has grown substantially and there is a larger number of over-65s.
The proposals put to nursing unions offer to increase the workforce of 35,835 by 1,200.
The document, 'Nursing and Midwifery Recruitment and Retention Strategy', says the Irish health service employed 35,835 nurses and midwives last year, - 32pc of the workforce. This compares with 39,006 in 2007 before a ban on recruitment.
It says social media should be harnessed, and Skype interviews used as a "routine recruitment mechanism".
The document says the location of recruitment campaigns should be further explored, including airports, particularly in areas where there is a high density of Irish nurses and midwives working abroad, like the UK and Australia, and campaigns 'streamlined' at key times of the year such as Christmas and the New Year.
It also said a process of "on-boarding" of new nurses should take place, "developing them" from their first point of contact to ensure they are valued and welcomed.
It says a 'Bring Them Home' campaign will be extended beyond the UK, and a second €1,500 allowance given after 18 months. Health management offers to take on an extra 96 midwives this year so there would be one midwife for every 29 births. It also says there will be an intake of 120 advanced nurse practitioners.
The document says pre-retirement job sharing will be considered at forthcoming pay talks with public sector unions, expected to begin in May.
Nurses and midwives who return to work, following retirement, will be entitled to return at their old pay level.
All internship nurses and midwives will be offered permanent positions and preferred location once their internship begins, depending on available funding. A career break option will be available to new graduates after a year of service.