MORE than 3,000 nurses have threatened strikes over government plans to bring in "slave labour" by abolishing students' €18,000 wages.
They held lunchtime protests at 13 major hospitals yesterday in opposition to the gradual phasing-out of the pay they get in their final year during a nine-month placement.
There was no impact on patient services as only nurses and midwives who were not rostered for duty took part.
But they vowed there could be serious disruption within weeks unless the Government reversed its decision.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation also plans to ask the five political party leaders to reveal if they will reverse the cut and will send their response on to members.
The nurses are paid 80pc of a staff nurse's pay, worth €18,000. This payment is gradually being reduced to zero by 2015.
The Department of Health and Children said the move meant savings of €32.5m by 2015. It has claimed it is necessary "given the scale of the Budget deficit and need to make savings under the National Recovery Plan".
More than 500 students nurses joined a demonstration outside Cork University Hospital, including Louise O'Donohue (21), from Killarney.
"We are expected to work for free and we have to pay for rent and we are working a full week, full-time," she said.
Deirdre Maloney (22), from Limerick, said that by 2014 the reduction in pay would be so drastic that she would make more money "sitting at home on the dole" than she would on placement.