November 9th nurses’ march cancelled

A protest planned by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organization (INMO) and the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) for the 9th of November has been cancelled following the release of a proposal from the Department of Health regarding the payment of nurses and midwives while they complete their hospital placement.

The proposal has outlined plans to reduce the payment of nurses and midwives from eighty to sixty per cent of a qualified professional’s wage in 2012 and then to fifty percent for all subsequent years.

INMO Executive Council will meet on November 7th and 8th to discuss the matter. Following this, a national meeting will be convened in Dublin of all the class reps of the relevant courses from the twelve universities that offer nursing and midwifery. Information meetings are scheduled to take place the week starting November 14th in all colleges and major hospitals.

In a letter to the INMO, the Secretary General Michael Scanlon stated that it should be appreciated that “the outcome has been achieved with considerable difficulty in the current financial circumstances and is very favourable to the nursing profession, particularly given that a term of the review when initially announced was that any revised proposal should be self-financing”.

Balloting of the current fourth year students will take place if the INMO decide to reject the proposal. Solely fourth year students will be balloted, as, according to USI President Gary Redmond, “they’re the ones who are actually receiving contracts from the hospitals”. They will be balloted for “industrial action” which will commence “very quickly in January after they go into the hospitals for their placement”.

The issue originally arose when the previous Fianna Fail government stated that they were completely discontinuing payments for student nurses, planning to phase them out by 2015. A protest was initiated and a report and review was agreed upon by the incoming Labour and Fine Gael coalition. The report was prepared but its contents remained sealed until Friday’s proposal. The uncertainty of what it contained and the fact that students were not being informed was the reason behind the planned march.

Redmond described a different aspect of the protest, “in essence this work placement they do as a part of their pre-registration period, they are a nurse, same as any nurse would be on a ward”. Fourth year student nurses have the same responsibilities and consequently the same legal ramifications of their actions as their fully qualified counterparts.

UCD Campaigns and Communications Officer Brendan Lacey reiterated his commitment to the cause, “to ask someone who is in college, trying to fund working, trying to fund where they have to live and then asking them to work for free; the government were asking slave labour of the nurses”, and stated that “there’s absolutely no way I could stand over student nurses from UCD being turned into student slaves. It’s just not acceptable”.