Nurses have said pay is not the cause of the planned strikes to take place in the weeks ahead, but it is the solution.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) said on Sunday that the main cause of the current dispute with the Government was understaffing.
However, the union said: “With fair pay, the HSE will be able to recruit and retain enough nurses and midwives for a safe health service.”
The INMO was responding to comments made by the Minister for Employment Affairs Regina Doherty, who maintained that nurses had not said they were unhappy with their pay.
Ms Doherty argued that nurses were planning strikes on the basis that they were dissatisfied with arrangements for recruitment and retention of staff.
“They have not said they are not happy with their pay,” she said on RTÉ’s The Week in Politics programme on Sunday.
Ms Doherty said the Government had accepted each and every one of the recommendations put forward by the Public Service Pay Commission last autumn following its examination of recruitment and retention issues in the health service.
Members of the INMO and the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) are scheduled to stage a series of strikes in the weeks ahead.
Both organisations rejected Government pay proposals put forward on foot of the Public Service Pay Commission report in ballots carried out last autumn. Members subsequently voted in favour of strike action.
The INMO said that the HSE simply could not hire sufficient nurses and midwives on existing wage levels .
"Ireland's nurses are increasingly looking overseas, where they have better pay and conditions and are on equal wages to their physio and therapist colleagues. In Ireland nurses and midwives face a €7,000 salary gap with their graduate colleagues at every point on the scale."
Talks are to take place on Tuesday between the HSE and nursing unions about the forthcoming strikes.
However, The Irish Times reported on Friday that the Department of Public Expenditure is not expected to attend this meeting, casting strong doubt over whether any direct negotiations on pay issues can take place.
Separate talks are to reconvene on Monday between the HSE, the INMO and PNA regarding contingency arrangements that are to be put in place in the event of the planned strikes going ahead.