Nurses are fed up, badly treated and feel let down, they say ahead of meeting

Nurses and midwives angry over pay and conditions as they prepare for special conference

INMO nurses protesting at Connolly Hospital, Blanchardstown in Dublin, on Tuesday, to highlight unsafe staffing levels and overcrowding. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

INMO nurses protesting at Connolly Hospital, Blanchardstown in Dublin, on Tuesday, to highlight unsafe staffing levels and overcrowding. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

 

Nurses and midwives attending a special delegate conference in Croke Park, Dublin, on Wednesday, are expected to dash Government hopes that ending a two-tier pay- system will quell anger over pay and conditions.

The Government announced proposals aimed at improving pay for recent public service entrants, which, it was hoped would persuade groups such as nurses they can secure extra pay without going on strike.

The two-tier pay system dates back to the economic crisis in 2010/11 when new entrants were offered lower pay. A Department of Public Expenditure report earlier this year found 60,000 public service staff were on lower pay than longer serving colleagues.

Government sources indicated that about 10,000 of the HSE’s 40,000 nurses could benefit from the ending of the two-tier system .

But at a lunchtime protest in Blanchardstown, Dublin on Tuesday, nurses said the ending of the two-tier pay system would affect teachers more than nurses, as large numbers of teachers were recruited on lower pay during the recession, but nurses were not.

As a result nurses estimated only about 5,000 of them stood to benefit from the Government move.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) had called for across-the-board increases to alleviate recruitment and retention difficulties, but these were rejected by the Public Service Pay Commission. The commission did however, recommend increases in allowances for nurses in some specialities.

However, many of the estimated 200 nurses and midwives at the protest outside James Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown on Tuesday said they rejected the findings of the Public Service Pay Commission.

They said they expected delegates at Wednesday’s special delegate conference to be forceful in their condemnation of the commission findings, but also staffing and safety levels and the attitude of the Government to their concerns.

Speaking at the protest in Blanchardstown, Lorraine Monaghan, industrial relations officer with the INMO said members were using words like “fed up”, “angry”, “badly treated” and “let down” in relation to their pay and conditions.

She said the Government had accepted it had to expand health services in response to a population that was increasing in size and ageing at the same time. But she said the expansion was being attempted with 2,600 fewer nurses than 11 years ago.

She said programmes such as Sláinte Care, a 10-year strategy for health care and health policy and a bed capacity review that identified a requirement for up to 2,500 extra hospital beds, “won’t happen without addressing nurses’ pay”.

She said this was not because of militant action by nurses, but because it was simply impossible to engage in such plans with staffing levels so far below what was necessary.

Turning to James Connolly Hospital, Ms Monaghan said the facility was short of about 50 nurses. She said the number of patients already admitted but on a trolley awaiting a bed, had increased by 64 per cent in the first eight months of 2018, compared to 2017.

Ms Monaghan said the Public Service Pay Commission report would be addressed at Wednesday’s special delegate conference, but was likely to spark a lively debate. She said it was not offering progress on pay. “Unless there is progress on pay”, she said” nurses will continue to take jobs in Britain and elsewhere.