Nurses have made a thinly veiled threat of industrial action if the Government does not make them a "serious" pay offer this month.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) ramped up pressure on Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe as unions prepare to battle for a share of the Budget.
It warned that delegates at a conference will consider "alternative actions" if an offer is not forthcoming by September 26.
A spokesperson said they want the same pay as health professionals, including physiotherapists and radiographers.
This would mean an increase of more than €5,000 for a staff nurse in their first year for example, from €29,497 to €34,514.
The nurses' demand comes as teachers are also upping the ante in a long-running battle for equal pay for recruits since 2010, who are on lower rates.
However, it would cost the government around €200m to reverse this inequality across the public service.
The INMO is demanding the pay rise as a result of alleged staff shortages. Other unions are making similar claims and are likely to become more vocal if a new Public Service Pay Commission report backs them up.
Nurses already brokered a deal worth at least €20m with the HSE in recognition of retention issues. Like all public servants, they will get pay rises worth around 7pc to the end of 2020.