The graduate generation left nursing genuine grievances over pay
Kate O’Mahony (22) graduated as a nurse last December and is coming to the end of a temporary position at the Mater hospital in Dublin. She won’t, however, be applying for one of the 1,000 posts advertised by the Health Service Executive at reduced pay.
Last Friday was the first day graduate nurses could apply for the jobs. Nursing unions have urged them not to do so.
Under the HSE initiative, the nurses would receive a salary of about €22,000 compared to the current entry rate of €26,400.
In the UK the starting rate for a fully qualified nurse or midwife is just under £21,200. However, staff in London can receive a bonus of up to 20 per cent. Nursing unions in Ireland have maintained that a nurse graduate going to work in London could receive the equivalent of €30,000 in addition to better educational programmes.
O’Mahony explains: “Currently, I get about €26,500 as a temporary nurse and they want me to take a job for €22,000.
“I understand everyone needs the experience, but in my course we did 11 weeks’ placement in first year, 16 weeks in second and third year, and a 36-week paid internship in our final year. Now they want us to do another two years.”
While she wants to remain in Ireland, her mother is an American citizen and so she is now considering taking nursing exams that would allow her to work in the US.
“I’m going to look at the option of going to the States. My cousin graduated the same time as me and is working in the US on 2½ times the starting salary I am being offered.
“When you break down what we are being offered, it works out between €10 and €11 an hour. My friend had work in a clothes shop in college at weekends and she was earning more than that.”
She thinks it will be hard for many nurses not to take on the new jobs, despite the reduced pay. “I’ve been in the Mater for five years, and I’m afraid that if others apply for these jobs, I will get the boot. I don’t think it is fair – if we say yes to this, it will only get worse. I know they are hitting teachers also, but what about new TDs, or graduate gardaí, or the Defence Forces? Why not put this scheme in place for everyone and not just nurses?”
Last October, a similar situation was faced by student teachers who took to the streets after reduced salaries were introduced for new entrants to the profession.