UNION officials last night vowed to continue their campaign against plans to axe student nurses' pay -- despite a pledge by Tanaiste Mary Coughlan to review the decision.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) warned it would go ahead with a rally next week, which could be followed by a ballot for strike action, unless the decision to abolish payments to students during internships is completely reversed.
Ms Coughlan, the Health Minister, said yesterday she held out hope that the nurses could hold on to part of their pay. She said there was a "strong argument" to "reinstate some financial reward".
However, just two days ago, the Department of Health and Children decision said cutting the payment completely was necessary "given the severity of the financial situation".
Ms Coughlan has only asked the secretary general of her department to "review" the decision -- with no guarantee that the payment will be kept.
Student nurses staged protests at hospitals on Thursday and the response of the INMO yesterday suggests they believe Ms Coughlan is merely trying to buy time during the general election.
The original decision by her department was to gradually phase out the payments to students by 2015.
It said abolishing it would mean it saved €32.5m by 2015.
The Tanaiste said student nurses here were treated as paid employees for part of their education, which was not the case in other countries.
"On the other hand, staff nurses are currently replaced on a two to one ratio by student nurses on clinical placement and these student nurses undertake similar duties and rosters to staff nurses," she added.