GRADUATE nurses hired by the HSE through a new recruitment scheme will be paid less than €85 per day.
It's emerged that the Government is temporarily lifting the ban on recruitment in the health service in a desperate bid to take on 1,000 additional nurses and midwives.
HSE bosses have announced the creation of new two-year contracts in an attempt to dissuade college graduates from emigrating.
The agency said that the scheme will result in savings of €10m next year.
But the move has been described as "greedy and opportunistic" after it emerged that the candidates will be paid 20pc below the current nursing salary.
Those who are successful will earn a basic pay of €22,000 per year -- the equivalent of just under €85 per day.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) said there was no reason the recruited nurses should be handed a reduced salary.
"There is a rate for the job and that rate should be applied to these people because these people will be required to undertake the full range of duties and responsibilities of a registered nurse or midwife," according to INMO General Secretary Liam Doran.
"They won't be doing anything less and they deserve the right rate of pay and they've tarnished and a sullied a good idea, which they will save money with anyway, by trying to be over greedy and opportunistic," he added.
The HSE announced that it had received Government approval to roll-out the initiative -- which will see the new staff deployed across a range of specialities in the health service.
"The graduate nurses will receive a two-year contract and will be paid at a rate of 80pc of the first point of the salary scale for a staff nurse. Those recruited can earn approximately €26,000 per annum including basic pay and premium pay."
However the agency emphasised that the scheme will provide opportunities to graduates to further their careers.
"It also gives nursing and midwifery graduates an opportunity to gain substantial clinical experience to further their career and professional development, with the security of a two-year contract and salary," a spokesman added.
Recruitment groups in countries such as Australia and Canada have upped their bid in recent years to lure nursing graduates away from Ireland.
Some newly qualified nurses are reported to have found jobs abroad on starting salaries of €40,000.
Staffing levels in Irish hospitals have also been damaged by the HSE's incentivised retirement scheme which has seen nurses retire without being replaced.
A survey by the INMO showed that nurse staffing levels in Ireland are critically low and below those of comparable wards in the UK.