Student nurses and midwives are being exploited says union

INMO says students on placement working for no pay in Covid environment

INMO general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said student nurses are taken for granted. File photograph: Nick Bradshaw for The Irish Times

INMO general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said student nurses are taken for granted. File photograph: Nick Bradshaw for The Irish Times

 

Student nurses and midwives are being exploited during the Covid-19 pandemic, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation has claimed.

It said on Friday that students on placements in hospitals across Ireland were facing additional Covid risks but were “effectively being asked to work as staff for no pay”.

It said a HSE scheme to pay students on healthcare assistant salaries was put in place at the start of the pandemic in March, but was no longer operating.

The INMO said it held talks with Department of Health officials on Friday but no progress was made on the issue.

The INMO urged that the payment provided in March should be re-introduced immediately and for student allowances to be increased substantially.

INMO general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha, said:

“Our students are being taken for granted. They are facing huge workloads and risking Covid infection. And while they are doing indispensable work, they are getting no financial recognition for their efforts.”

The union said students had also faced income loss, as they were no longer able to work part time as care assistants while studying, due to the infection risk of working in a care home while also on placement in a hospital.

It said before their final year internship, most student nurses and midwives received either nothing or an allowance of just €50.79 per week.

The Department of Health said it was currently engaging with trade unions on proposals for a revision of student nurse allowances in the short term.

“Given the impacts of Covid-19 on Student Nurse Placements, the department supports a revision of these allowances and expects to conclude this revision in the coming days. The revision will also include measures that protect student nurse education and welfare during at the present time.”

Pay agreement

Separately, the country’s largest trade union Siptu said on Friday that while Covid-19 and its budgetary and other implications had “clearly challenged the landscape”, this did not mean it would accept any proposed new public service pay agreement that did not deliver for members.

Siptu deputy general secretary John King told over 200 public service delegates at an online conference that any new agreement must “rid itself of the vestiges of the past, it cannot be rooted in the language of continued austerity, it must offer hope and a vision of public service that is about investment, development, progression and fair reward for the contribution that is made by public servants.”

“ A new agreement must rid itself of the regressive measures that reduced the earnings potential of public servants, and it must hold and advance the existing service delivery options to protect, grow and develop public service jobs and employment opportunities. It must present opportunities for public service workers to explore the reform of the workplace that has happened since Covid-19, in a way that works for them, in a healthy, family friendly, ergonomic and productive manner.”

The current public service agreement will expire at the end of the year.