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Department Refusing To Give Details About Decision To Introduce Slave Labour. 09.02.11

JOINT PRESS RELEASE INMO & SIPTU,  Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

Unions today slammed health employers following an LRC Conciliation Hearing on the decision to cut the pay of pre-registration nurses and midwives. They said health employers had refused to identify the person who decided to introduce “slave labour” into our health service, saying only that it was a government decision.  Pre-registration nurses and midwives working on wards in their final year are, from this year, to see their pay phased out and will be expected to work for free from 2015 onwards.

As pre-registration nurses and midwives protested outside hospitals at lunchtime today, Department of Finance and Health officials insisted that the Law on Information and Consultation did not apply to government decisions. The Department of Health, on December 22nd last, instructed the HSE to impose a 14% decrease in the rate of pay for pre-registration nurses/midwives, on top of the pay cuts already imposed on all other health workers. There had been no prior consultation which is a legal requirement on employers throughout the EU. The complaint has now been referred to the Labour Court. Health Unions in 2008 successfully challenged a breech by HSE of the same legislation.

Speaking after the Conciliation Conference, INMO’s Deputy General Secretary, Dave Hughes said: “Pre-registered nurses and midwives are the lowest paid grade in the health service. They are now to have a third pay cut imposed, one more than all other health workers. The Minister for Finance, twelve months ago, reduced the cut for higher paid civil servants, saying it was unfair as they had previously lost performance related pay awards. It seems he has no such sympathy for people on the lowest rates who work hardest in frontline services.”

SIPTU’s Nursing Official, Louise O’Reilly said: “We are mystified as to the rationale for this decision.  Neither the Department of Health nor the Department of Finance advanced one reason for this decision which has the potential to devastate the professions of nursing and midwifery.  They did not advance one credible argument to support this decision.  Our pre-registration members and their qualified colleagues are still reeling from the shock of this announcement but we will fight this in any and every available forum.  There is no justification for singling out nurses and midwives for this harsh treatment.  It is patently unfair and downright disgraceful to expect workers to work for free.”

The matter has been referred to the Labour Court as a breach of the Information and Consultation Act and the unions have also requested that this matter be dealt with as a breach of the Public Service Agreement on Pay and Reform (Croke Park Agreement).

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