UCD Students’ Union (UCDSU) unanimously voted at Union Council to support those graduate nurses affected by the new payment scheme introduced by Minister for Health, Dr James Reilly TD and the Health Service Executive (HSE). The new graduate scheme, which was announced the Department of Health without any consultation or discussion, will see UCD 2012 graduates, while performing the full range of duties of all registered nurses, paid 80% of the minimum staff nurse scale, on contracts of two years duration.

UCDSU states that “Young nurses [and] midwives have already contributed to the countries recovery, with salaries cut by 24% in two years”. The Union sees the continued exploitation of registered and regulated nurses as slave labour and has demanded that the HSE reverse the scheme.

They have called for an immediate meeting with Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin and Minister Reilly, alongside a nationwide lobbying of public representatives, which they wish to commence immediately. There is also the possibility of investigation into the potential legal challenges under the Employment Equality Acts.

A statement released on this issue by UCDSU Vice President for Campaigns and Communications, Paddy Guiney, stated that SU Council had “called for the resignation” of Minister Reilly over the incident. Some controversy arose among council members over this headline, as though the motion names the Minister, it did not explicitly call for him to step down.

Guiney clarified this statement, commenting: “UCDSU passed a motion opposing this abhorrent and harmful deal for student nurses, the motion itself didn’t call for the resignation of Minister Reilly. UCDSU stands by this statement and I as Campaigns Officer will be continuing a campaign to put pressure on Minister Reilly as a result of his actions in decimating the position of student nurses in this State… We are not the only area of society calling for the resignation of Minister Reilly following a series of high profile and questionable errors of judgement. Frankly, student nurses deserve better than slave labour and that is the position of UCDSU.”

The graduate scheme has also been opposed by Ireland’s Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) who were shocked at the proposed rates of pay and called for graduate nurses to boycott the scheme. Earlier this year as a result, the INMO labelled recruitment for the scheme a failure with the HSE receiving low levels of applications.

UCD Students’ Union is demanding that the HSE reverse the graduate scheme immediately stating that the continued exploitation of regular and registered nurses is slave labour and greedy. Young nurses and midwives have already suffered significantly due to cutbacks aimed at speeding up the country’s recovery.

The scheme is expected to save €10 million for the Exchequer but Guiney has said that the Students’ Union “believe[s] that funding needs to come from the overused and expensive agencies who have stagnated long-term staff rates in hospitals around the country”. The scheme is aimed at reducing the reliance of hospitals and other health agencies on these more expensive staff provided by temporary agencies across the country.