The leadership of Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) is to recommend that its members accept proposals aimed at resolving its recent dispute over pay and staffing issues.
INMO general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said the union's executive believed the Labour Court had, in a recommendation issued on Wednesday, "vindicated all the arguments" the union had made.
She said the Labour Court had proposed a new contract which the INMO could propose positively to its members as it was a “progressive” proposal which guaranteed that nurses and midwives would be central to the development of the health service.
“We want to be more than those who are told what to do . We want to be part of what the new health service will look like,” she said.
Ms Ní Sheaghdha said savings to pay for the proposed pay improvements would come from the introduction of a new staffing framework, which would significantly reduce spending on personnel brought in from agencies.
She said this was a scientific measure to determine how many nurses were needed to provide patient care. However, she said the process had to be funded up front by the Government.
“The savings from missed care when you staff your wards properly are phenomenal. Our estimation is that savings in excess of €600 million that can be achieved.”
The union is to ballot its 40,000 members on the proposals from Monday.
A specific provision contained in the draft contract drawn up by management several weeks ago that nurses could be required to move to another location, as much as 40km away, during a single shift is not included in the recommendation issued by the Labour Court on Wednesday.
The Labour Court recommendation says nurses’ rosters may be subject to change and “may provide for a variety of shifts”.
A highly controversial proposal in the draft contract drawn up by management suggested that employers could seek nurses to work four, six, eight, 10 and 12 hours shifts. This is not contained in the Labour Court’s recommendation.
It is proposed that staff nurses would be able to move onto a higher-paid enhanced grade after one year and 16 weeks which would pay an initial salary of €35,800.
The Labour Court also says that it notes an undertaking by health service employers that nurses would not be required to work “split shifts” – where work is broken up into two or more parts during a day.
The Labour Court recommendation also says work by nurses outside the proposed contract is not permissible if the combined working time exceeded the maximum limits set out in the Organisation of Working Time Act.
Minister for Health Simon Harris said the Labour Court recommendation represented "a sensible way forward".
“I hope the INMO can now proceed with its ballot but that is a matter for them. People have worked very hard to try resolve this dispute. The proposition we now have is good for nursing, good for the health service and I hope nurses will be in a position to respond positively to it.”
Siptu health division organiser Paul Bell said: "In the coming days we will be convening a meeting of the members of the national nurses and midwives sector committee. At this meeting the challenges presented by this latest recommendation will be fully considered which in turn will allow us to guide our members accordingly."