Government vote unanimously not to pay student nurses and midwives. UCDSU 'deeply frustrated'.

Image Credit: Dominic Daly

The Dáil voted 77 to 72 to not pay student nurses and midwives while on placement.

Last night, Wednesday November 2nd, a motion was brought before the Dáil to ‘Pay for Student Nurses and Midwives’. The 77 TDs who voted against the Solidarity-People Before Profit motion were the members of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and The Green Party. 

In a statement released today by UCDSU, Welfare Officer Ruairí Power said: “Students on placements in hospitals across Ireland are facing additional COVID risks and are effectively being asked to work as staff for no pay. These students are paying thousands of euros in registration fees for the privilege of working in high risk healthcare settings for no compensation and inadequate stipends. 

“It has never been acceptable for the State to abdicate its responsibility towards providing financial recognition for student workers on placement. These students have been plugging holes left by staffing inadequacies in our public health system for years, with no compensation for their enormous impact. Covid-19 has merely shone a light on what has always been a fundamentally unjust situation”.

4th Year Student Nurse Meadhbh Flynn, who has been very vocal in campaigning for fair remuneration, said; “This week in Irish politics has shown that the government would prefer to pay large sums of money to the greyhound industry rather than to student nurses and midwives. We could not be more disappointed with the vote last night but honestly, we were not surprised. The Irish government has never respected us. 

“As an intern, I will be starting my career on €10.70 in January despite the fact that last year’s interns [were] paid at the €14 Healthcare Assistant rate and despite the fact that 2/4 of my wards will more than likely be Covid wards. Nursing and midwifery students in 1st-3rd year (and 4th year C&G students) will be working for free. While we are indeed learning, we are being used to fill in the gaps of a chronically understaffed system. 

“Students on placement are struggling to meet their daily learning needs because they are carrying out duties that should be performed by paid staff members. It is incredibly discouraging to hear that we do not deserve a fair and proper wage for this work. How can the government expect to retain a workforce that is already fed up with the system before we even qualify?”

UCDSU Campaigns & Engagement Officer, Leighton Gray, said: “As noted in the Dáil yesterday, there is a gendered and racial element to this issue. The majority of nurses are women, and immigrants and POC make up significant numbers in nursing. It is no coincidence that these vital workers are being treated so unfairly. Nurses risk their physical health, as well as their financial health and most importantly, their mental health, to look after our sick and vulnerable. Paying them in claps is not sustainable, or justifiable.”