JUNIOR doctors are earning less than the average industrial wage but are still expected to work up to 36-hour shifts.
The non-consultant hospital doctors (NCHDs) say, despite EU rules prohibiting the practice, they are working exhausting hours without any of the perks associated with consultant doctors.
The basic pay for interns, under new rules introduced in 2011, is just €30,257.
But junior doctors do have additional benefits such as overtime rates, Sunday double time and on-call off-site rates.
However, the figures are nothing close to the €200,000 commanded by the top consultants across the country.
There are 4,500 NCHDs in the country who are often picking up the bulk of the work in busy and under-staffed hospitals.
The training path through medicine begins with a medical degree which can last between four and six years depending on previous qualifications.
After this period, the graduates become interns for one year. They then become a senior house officer (SHO) for between two and four years -- their salary ranges between €34,955 and €49,271.
The medics then become registrars -- a promotional post for doctors who are competing for a place on a higher specialist training programme.
At the registrar level the doctors command between €45,520 and €54,275. If they are successful in the programme, they will become a specialist or senior registrar for up to seven years.
Only after this stint they can become a consultant.
Dr Mark Murphy, who is in the GP training scheme at Sligo General Hospital, said that there is a wide misconception on the salary of doctors -- especially junior doctors.
"The NCHDs aren't on anything like the €200,000 consultant salary," he told the Herald.
"I'm on €50,000 a year. It is not to say that we are low earners but we are not in the higher echelons."
But Dr Murphy said that the salary scale is not the biggest bone of contention -- it is the exhausting and dangerously long working hours that is the problem.
"This isn't a financial issue," he said.
"Many of the young doctors are emigrating -- yes, it is for better pay but primarily it is about working conditions."