MORE than 1,000 nurses have staged a street protest against a €50 rise in the yearly fee required to continue working.
The threat of mass non-payment of the retention fee to the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland could cause serious problems for health services because nurses and midwives are not allowed to work unless they remain registered.
The fee hike represents a 50pc rise in the €100 annual payment and an increase of almost 80pc since 2012.
Protesters chanting "no way - we won't pay!" vented their anger in a noisy demonstration outside the board's headquarters in Blackrock, Co Dublin, yesterday.
Nurse Yvonne Longmore (33) from Saint Michael's Hospital, Dun Laoghaire, joined the marchers and told the Herald: "Enough is enough. Nurses have done more than their fair share in taking pay cuts and other austerity measures. This is a compulsory fee to remain registered. There's a lot of anger now."
Rory Morrissey (35), travelled from St Vincent's Community Nursing Unit in Mountmellick, Co Laois to join the protest. "I'm really angry. We've been through a recession and our costs keep going up. This is our own governing body imposing a 50pc fee increase. There should be no increase," he said.
Board chairman Paul Gallagher accepted a joint protest letter from the INMO, the SIPTU union and the Psychiatric Nurses Association.
The board, which regulates the profession, stated the fee hike is needed to pay the costs of meeting its obligations under new laws requiring that fitness-to-practise inquiries are held in public for the first time.
"This increase is unacceptable and should not be paid," said Liam Doran, Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (IMNO) general secretary.
He acknowledged that nurses and midwives are legally banned from working if they are not on the current register but "40,000 or 50,000 nurses not paying" the retention fee would mean "the law will be an ass".
If nurses do not pay then "crunch time" for the health service will be in March or April when the required payment reminder notices are issued, he said.