TWO NURSES UNIONS have said that the HSE is trying to “bully” and “strong-arm” nurses and midwives into accepting a 15 per cent pay cut.
Both the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) and the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) say that existing nurses on temporary contracts will be forced to re-apply for jobs through a graduate scheme that would pay them 85 per cent of a starting nurses wage.
A memo sent to health service managers said that the HSE would begin recruitment in the coming weeks, but that any staff that were on temporary contracts purely to cover agency staff or overtime hours would have to re-apply for jobs through the graduate scheme.
Graduate nurses and midwives will be paid 85 per cent of a full wage for the first year and 90 per cent in their second.
Both unions insist that the Haddington Road agreement specifically provides that the positions filled under the scheme are in addition to the employment ceiling for the health service and that they cannot be used to replace existing fillable vacancies.
INMO deputy general secretary Dave Hughes told TheJournal.ie that existing nurses will have “no appetite” to apply for the jobs at a lower rate.
“We didn’t like the Haddington Road Agreement, but we certainly didn’t think that it would be this bad. The agreement is clear that the graduate scheme jobs would not replace existing posts.
“We will be going back to the Labour Relations Commission, who are the custodians of the Haddington Road Agreement, and asking them to implement the agreed practices.
This is a tactic of desperation and is trying to strong-arm young nurses into taking a 15 per cent pay cut.
However, HSE national HR director Barry O’Brien said that the move was needed to “reduce our dependency on agency and overtime workers”.
“If nurses are there to replace overtime and agency staff, they should avail of the graduate programme,” he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.
O’Brien rejected the idea that nurses would be forced onto the graduate scheme, saying “we continue to hire nurses in the usual way”.