Nurses Union announces campaign against 'slave labour' pay cuts


The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has announced a campaign of opposition to plans by the government to cut the pay of 4th year student nurses and midwives.  Describing the government’s plans as “devalu[ing], to the level of slave labour, the nature of the essential direct care given during this 36 week rostered placement” INMO general secretary, Liam Doran said “We will fiercely resist this attack on these young professionals which amounts to nothing more than gross exploitation.”

Student nurses and midwives do a 36-week work placement as part of the 4th year of their training.  During this time they are rostered for full duties, working 12 hour days, and night and weekend duty shifts, and replace qualified staff nurses.  Up to now they have been paid 80% of the minimum staff nurse salary.

Now, on top of the 10% pay cut suffered by all nurses and other public service ‘new entrants’ since the budget, and the imposition of the universal social charge, the Department of Health & Children plans to phase out this payment so that by 2015 these workers will be expected to work for nothing.

There are currently 1,600 4th year student nurses working in our hospital system.  The campaign outlined by the INMO will kick off with lunchtime protests at 13 hospitals across the country on Wednesday 9th February.  A week later, on February 16th, a protest march and rally will be held in Dublin, leaving Parnell Square at 11:30a.m.

The union has announced its intention to begin a ballot for industrial action among the affected student workers, with industrial action due to begin in early March.

These workers should not be left alone to fight their own battles however.  The strength of a trade union movement is in the collective action of all workers and all grades.  When an attack comes on the weakest group of workers, there is a duty on all their co-workers to respond.

The INMO and the other nurses’ unions should ballot all their members for industrial action and should prepare for an industrial battle involving all nurses to resist this attack.  The government has seen ‘new entrants’ as the weak link all across the public service.  The trade union movement must mobilise to fight back.

WORDS: Gregor Kerr