THE IRISH NURSES and Midwives Organisation has said today that the HSE is ‘knowingly’ breaking Ireland’s minimum wage laws as regards the payment of interns.
In a statement after the organisation’s executive council meeting today, it said the “insistence by the HSE that intern nurses and midwives increase their working hours, while only being paid 50 per cent of the staff nurse rate of pay, means that they are now paid less than the legal minimum wage”.
The executive heard a report from the secretariat which it said revealed that the breach was highlighted to the HSE in advance of their decision to impose a 39 hour working week.
The organisation had suggested that the HSE could avoid this breach by maintaining the interns on their existing hours. However, the INMO said it has now learned that the HSE was instructing employers to increase the hours, advising them that they had informed the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.
When contacted by TheJournal.ie, the HSE issued a brief statement tonight, saying: “A requirement following the Haddington Road Agreement is that a nurse’s working week increases from 37 to 39 hours.
“A review is being undertaken in order to ensure compliance with legislation governing the minimum hourly rate for nurses in the context of training positions.”
The organisation will now write directly to the minister and alert the public regarding this “serious breach of law”, having viewed documentary evidence of the HSE instruction.
Speaking on the issue today, David Hughes, INMO Deputy General Secretary said the issue has been highlighted to the HSE “who are bullish in their implementation of extra working hours for nurses and midwives”.
“Instead of adhering to the law, we now have documentary evidence that the HSE, with approval of Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, are deliberately instructing employers to breach the law on the basis that it can be sorted out retrospectively,” he said.
Hughes added that such an approach shows “an appalling disregard for employment law and workers’ rights”.
First published 8.15pm