Nurses warn of an all out strike over student cuts
NURSES have warned of strike action over government plans to phase out the €18,000 wages paid to students.
Protests were staged at 13 major hospitals to highlight opposition to the proposals, which have already been described as "exploitation".
The Government is to gradually eliminate wages for student nurses for the nine months they work on hospital wards as part of their four-year degree.
The Department of Health and Children said €32.5m will be saved by 2015 as a result of the abolition and that the payment to trainee nurses was "unique" to Ireland among European countries.
The demonstrations caused no impact on patient services as only nurses and midwives not rostered for duty took part.
However, further protests could lead to disruptions, nurses have said.
It comes as the Government announced a review of minimum pay rates across the economy.
As part of the IMF/EU bailout deal, the Government agreed to the review, which is taking place in conjunction with the €1-an-hour reduction in the national minimum wage.
The assessment will look at the contracts of existing workers as well as new employees.
It will examine the process by which employers and unions decide pay rates and will be chaired by UCD economics lecturer Dr Frank Walsh and Labour Court chairman Kevin Duffy.
Salaries underpinned by Registered Employment Agreements and Employment Regulation Orders will be included in the review.
More than 300,000 low-paid workers could be affected by the outcome.
However, employers have argued that current pay levels are leading to closures as companies cannot afford the rates.
The pay agreements cover workers across the economy, including retail, catering, hairdressing and construction.
Grocers' representative group RGDATA pointed out the mandatory wage in its sector was nearly €2 an hour higher than the national minimum wage.
Other employer groups, including Chambers Ireland and IBEC, have welcomed the review.
Trade union ICTU said the review was an opportunity to "refute the ideological attack" on incomes which has had "disastrous" results.