Pay parity and restoration main focus of three day conference
Esther Hayden reports from the annual conference of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation in Clayton Whites
Over 350 nurses and midwives from around the country were in Wexford last week for the 98th Annual Delegate Conference of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO).
The three-day conference which took place in the Clayton Whites Hotel was based on the theme 'Nurses and Midwives - Together Shaping Healthcare'.
The conference follows on from a recent nationwide ballot on proposals on staffing/ recruitment/retention, which showed an 82 per cent majority of members in favour of accepting the proposals as a first step in beginning to address the staffing crisis.
The conference reviewed the pace of implementation, of the various strands of the agreement, necessary to improve staffing levels in wards/communities across the country's health services.
The conference took place ahead of negotiations between the government and public service unions which are due to commence shortly on a new public service pay agreement. In this regard, the Executive Council tabled an emergency motion which was debated on Thursday morning, focusing on the INMO's priorities going into the talks.
The first priority will be, in conjunction with all public service unions, to secure the unwinding of the FEMPI legislation and achieve the restoration, in full, of all cuts to pay imposed in recent years.
The second priority will be to secure a separate engagement, with government, on pay related measures to address the severe labour market challenges, which continue to affect nursing/midwifery and the quality of services available to patients. This is in the context of the organisation's claim for parity, in terms of pay and hours, with colleague public servants who hold similar professional qualifications.
Martina Harkin-Kelly, INMO President, said: 'The INMO's staffing campaign, over recent months, has highlighted, yet again, the intolerable workloads, on our members, due to the crisis in staffing arising from the inability of the Irish public health service to recruit/retain nurses and midwives.
'This conference will, undoubtedly, be dominated by the issues of pay and staffing, as our members will not accept any further delays in addressing these two fundamental issues.
'During the conference delegates set the full agenda for the coming year in terms of all professional, educational, social and industrial relations issues of concern to our members.'
Over 60 motions were debated over the course of the three days including motions on: Pay Restoration; Parity of pay and working hours; Work/Life Balance; Staffing levels; Supports for students; Dublin living allowance; Human Rights infringements in Emergency Departments; Calls for the NMBI to progress Part 11 of the Nurses and Midwives Act 2011; Protected time during a shift to maintain documentation; Health and safety of members; Implementation of the National Maternity Strategy; Care of the Elderly; E-rostering and Fitness to Practice Hearings.
On Friday Minister for Health Simon Harris addressed the delegates followed by INMO President, Martina Harkin-Kelly.
INMO General Secretary, Liam Doran said: 'As we approach the end of the Lansdowne Road Agreement, it is clear that our members are tired of hearing about the economy improving while their working lives, in terms of their pay and conditions, remain far behind where they were a decade ago. It is for this reason that this year's conference, and the motions to be debated, will clearly map out the policies and approaches of this Organisation to the forthcoming pay negotiations and to all engagements with government and employers in the coming 12 months.
'The staffing crisis cannot be solved without dealing, once and for all, with the issue of nurses and midwives' pay. The government has a chance to do this in the coming weeks. The INMO will not wait any longer and our approach to any new pay deal will be determined by progress on this critical issue.
'At this conference we will unite in pursuit of the goal of fair, proper and appropriate pay for every nurse and midwife in this country. This must reflect their role, their responsibility and the realities of the international labour market so that we can attract, retain and properly reward all nurses and midwives in this country."