Nurses' protest calls for pay to be restored as gardai are ready to strike
Nurses have accused the Government of forcing recent graduates to leave the country, due to its refusal to reinstate pay increments for those who graduated from 2011 to 2015.
Hundreds of nurses protested outside the Dail yesterday.
They called for the payment of increments, worth around €1,500-a-year, for those who graduated in the last five years when the scheme was halted due to the economic crisis.
The increments have been reintroduced for this year's graduates, which has particularly angered those who were hit by the freeze. Nurses say ultimately patients are suffering, as nurses leave hospitals here to work in countries where they are better treated, such as England and Australia.
Their protest came on the same day gardai indicated that they'd be willing to undertake industrial action in any dispute over pay.
Members of the Garda Representative Association (GRA) were balloted on whether they were willing to take industrial action over pay - despite them being legally restricted from going on strike.
It emerged that 95pc of those polled voted in favour. There is now the prospect of a garda strike, with a GRA special delegate conference today to discuss a pay deal offered last week.
If they back the deal, a freeze on their pay increments will be lifted and a €4,017 rent allowance will be restored to new recruits.
Meanwhile, the nurses have claimed that the suspension of the pay increments has left experienced nurses worse off than recent graduates.
Liam Doran, general secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), told the Herald the situation was unjust.
"We have a situation where the graduate nurses and midwives from 2011 to 2015 are not paid the same as people who qualified before them or after them. So there are 7,500 nurses and midwives who are being treated unfairly.
"They are not getting their increments for recognition of service and it's costing them €1,500-a-year and we are not having it," he said.
Mr Doran said while the Department of Health had agreed to reinstate the increments, the Department of Public Expenditure had blocked the move.
A statement from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform confirmed it granted a sanction in February 2016 for nurses graduating in the current year to be paid the increments.
The pay increases were first implemented in 2002, but unilaterally stopped by the Government in 2011.
"This issue arose in the context of encouraging greater retention and recruitment of trainee nurses into the public health service," the department said.
"On being granted the sanction, the Department of Health were informed that the question of its being extended to nurses who graduated in the period 2011-2015 could be reviewed, on foot of consideration of whether the current sanction resulted in an increase in the retention rates," it said.