No guarantee pay rise will solve nurse recruitment problem, Varadkar says

Government told ‘substance must replace spin’ in its approach to the nursing dispute

Phil Ní Sheaghdha, General Secretary INMO, joined members on the picket line outside St. James’s Hospital, in Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Phil Ní Sheaghdha, General Secretary INMO, joined members on the picket line outside St. James’s Hospital, in Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said “there is no guarantee that an 8 per cent, 9 per cent, 10 per cent or 12 per cent pay rise will actually solve the recruitment and retention problem” in the nursing profession.

Nurses are paid more in Ireland than in the North, Scotland, Wales and most of the UK except London, he said. “We pay more than most of Europe. All of those places have recruitment and retention challenges.”

The State has a turnover rate of 5 per cent among nurses, which was one third of that in Australia “yet it is a struggle to recruit and retain” he said.

He also told the Dáil that Australia and the United Arab Emirates paid nurses more than in Ireland.

Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that an 8 per cent, 9 per cent,10 per cent or 12 per cent pay rise will actually solve the recruitment and retention problem. It has not solved the problem for Australia or the Middle East.”

Earlier the Government was warned that “substance must replace spin” in its approach to the nursing dispute.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin hit out at the call on Monday night by Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe and Minister for Health Simon Harris for talks with nurses and the Workplace Relations Commission.

He said the Government should call in some of the calibre of the former chairman of the Labour Court Kieran Mulvey.

As the nurses strike entered its second day with the cancellation of 50,000 patients appointments Mr Martin said the call in a press release by the Ministers for talks was “pathetic” in the face of such a serious dispute.

Mr Martin pointed to the comment by general secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives’ Organisation (INMO) Phil Ní Sheaghdha described the offer as the “most cynical move I have seen in a long time”.

The Government had made the situation worse, he said asking if the Taoiseach had “reprimanded your Ministers”.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar replied said that “Tens of thousands of people” found out through the media that their appointments, their respite had been cancelled.

But he acknowledged that no direct contact had been made with nurses when they were invited to attend talks at the WRC

But he said would make sure it would not happen again and he insisted that the invitation to talks at the WRC was sincere.

Mr Martin described his response as “pathetic” and renewed his call to ask Mr Mulvey to intervene.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald criticised the Government’s “spectacular” ineptitude and inertia and reiterated her call that Mr Varakdar should intervene directly.

But rounding on Ms McDonald he said “there is no advice you can give us” on industrial relations or disputes because she and her party held the world record for not having an assembly or Executive.

That they were “commentators and bystanders on Northern Ireland”.

The Taoiseach insisted that the industrial relations machinery was in place and that the dispute could be resolved in this matter.

Mr Varadkar understood issues and the support of the public which he believed would continue.

But he repeated his call to talks at the WRC and said the dispute could be resolved through the industrial relations machinery of the State.

And he said it had to be fair to the taxpayer and to all public sector workers.