Pay rises of over 3% for senior nurses proposed by expert group

Moves would be aimed at restoring differentials in place before strike settlement

The Government is  under pressure over demands by trade unions and the Opposition  to pay student nurses in hospitals during the Covid-19 pandemic. Photograph: iStock

The Government is under pressure over demands by trade unions and the Opposition to pay student nurses in hospitals during the Covid-19 pandemic. Photograph: iStock

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Hundreds of nurses in more senior grades would receive special pay increases of just over 3 per cent under new proposals put forward by an independent expert group established by the Government.

The increases would form part of a process to deal, in part, with the fallout from the settlement of a strike in 2019. This saw the establishment of new enhanced nurse contracts with higher salaries for thousands of staff nurses and midwives.

On foot of this settlement, nurses in more senior positions sought higher pay to restore the difference between their salaries and those applying to lower level posts that existed prior to the strike in 2019.

An expert review body on nursing which was established by the Government last summer considered this issue as part of its first module of work.

It is understood that in recent days the review group has proposed that the salaries of nurses in these higher grades would need to increase by just over 3 per cent to restore the pay differential.

The proposed increases would be separate to the 1 per cent rise scheduled for October 2021 and a further 1 per cent rise in October 2022 set out in a new agreement for most public service staff which was reached between the Government and trade unions last Friday.

The proposed increases are expected to be considered as part of a new sectoral bargaining process for different parts of the public service which is envisaged under the new public service agreement.

The Government has earmarked about €237million overall under this proposed sectoral bargaining process to deal with awards and claims involving personnel within the various parts of the public service, including health, local authorities, justice, the Civil Service and defence.

The Government is already under pressure over demands by trade unions and the Opposition to pay student nurses in hospitals during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, trade unions see the proposed new €900 million deal on public service pay reached with the Government on Friday as “a holding agreement” and believe negotiations on a successor accord could get under way in 18 months.

The proposed deal will see most of the country’s 340,000 State employees receive a 1 per cent pay rise in October 2021 and a further 1 per cent in October 2022.

Unions said there were no side deals – or “chairman’s notes” as they have been known – on issues of concern to particular groups accompanying the new accord. However, it is understood that there are a number of understandings, for example that the annual retention fee for health and social care professionals with their regulator, Coru, will remain capped at €100.

The deal, if agreed, would run for two years and unions believe they would be back in negotiations on a successor arrangement by May or June of 2022.

Timetable

The Public Service Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions is to meet on Tuesday to consider the proposed new agreement and the timetable for ballots of members of affiliated organisations and, if passed, for its formal ratification.

The chairman of the Public Service Committee Kevin Callinan of the Fórsa trade union said on Sunday that a significant focus of the new agreement was on the lower paid in the public service.

He said the structure of the proposed deal would see a person on €25,000 per year receive an increase of 2 per cent while someone on more than €50,000 would receive a 1 per cent rise next year.

However, not all groups are happy with the proposed agreement and the way it was negotiated.

Ahead of a meeting of its executive on Monday the Representative Association for Commissioned Officers in the Defence Forces (RACO) said on Sunday: “The document, presented as a fait accompli on Friday morning, contains measures specific to certain sectors that were not aired in any of the early talks. One wonders what other deals have been done. What is clear to RACO is that we have not been afforded the opportunity to shape negotiations on behalf of our members, and the notion of parity of esteem is unfortunately a myth.”

The executive of the primary teachers’ trade union, the INTO, is also to meet on Monday to consider the proposed deal.

The national executive of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI), which maintained that promises it had received of parity of esteem with trade unions in the negotiation of the proposed agreement had not been upheld, will convene on Tuesday to consider the content of the document.