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Dublin: 6 °C Friday 25 April, 2014

Nurses to rally against graduate scheme

Two unions are calling for a boycott of the recently-announced HSE nursing graduate scheme.

A 2011 PNA/INMO protest
A 2011 PNA/INMO protest
Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

TWO NURSING UNIONS are to hold a joint rally tomorrow morning to protest against the proposed HSE graduate scheme which will see 1,000 agency staff displaced.

Under the new plans, the positions would be filled by new graduates at a salary of €22,000 – a cut of €11,470 on 2009 pay.

Both the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation and the Psychiatric Nurses Association are calling for a boycott of the programme.

The demonstration, which is due to begin in Croke Park at 11am Saturday, will be attended by graduates, current nurses, agency nurses and undergraduate students.

The HSE claims that a graduate nurse can earn “approximately €26,000 per annum including basic pay and premium pay” but the scheme has been criticised by unions as “cheap labour under a superficial guise of an education graduate programme”.

Graduates recruited under the scheme would be paid the equivalent of 80 per cent of the minimum wage on the staff nurse scale – which the INMO says has already been cut by 24 per cent in recent years.

It believes that young nurses and midwives have already “contributed more than their fair share towards the country’s recovery”.

The unions have asked graduates completing college to refuse to apply for the posts until they are advertised at the salary equal to those afforded to full-time equivalents in the service.

“There are no new jobs attached to this initiative and its introduction will simply put 1,000 experienced nurses and midwives out of work, while giving transient work to the new graduates,” INMO general secretary Liam Doran claimed.

In response to questions from TheJournal.ie, the HSE denied that the net effect of the initiative would mean no additional nurses operating in the health service.

The HSE said: “The high costs associated with agency staff may mean that in some locations, it will be possible to employ more graduates than the number of agency staff previously employed.”

Lack of opportunities

The rally by the nursing unions will be aimed at garnering support for a boycott of the recruitment scheme which the HSE estimates will save it in the region of €10 million next year.

In a fact sheet produced by the unions, it is claimed that the HSE could save 54 per cent on their current costs if they employed newly qualified nurses and midwives on the full salary scale, and not on 80 per cent.

But the HSE said that these figures related only to permanent posts and said that it must reduce numbers employed in the public health service under its service plan and the Croke Park Agreement.

It said: “Taking this into account, the HSE has obtained permission from government to offer two-year fixed term posts to graduates to ensure that they have access to work and associated training in Ireland in the absence of permanent posts.”

The unions also claim that starting salaries for newly qualified nurses and midwives have been cut by over 24 per cent since 2009.

The HSE’s national director of human resources, Barry O’Brien, said he found it difficult to understand the INMO’s position given their previous criticism of a lack of opportunities for nursing graduates in Ireland.

He said: “In the current economic environment, and with very limited recruitment opportunities in the public sector, this is an opportunity for 2012 Nursing and Midwifery graduates to gain substantial clinical experience to further their career and professional development, with the security of a 2 year contract and salary.”

-With Hugh O’Connell

READ: Nurses’ union demands boycott of graduate scheme over pay dispute

MORE: HSE to recruit up to 1,000 graduate nurses and midwives next year

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