Irish nursing unions have called on students to boycott a new graduate nurse programme, which they claim is an attempt to gain “cheap labour” at the expense of experienced staff jobs.
The Health Service Executive in Ireland today launched a new nursing careers programme. Under the scheme – called the Post Qualification Nursing & Midwifery Initiative – graduate nurses can start applying for 1,000 positions available in 2013.
The graduate nurses will receive a two-year contract and will be paid at a rate of 80% of the first point of the salary scale for a staff nurse. Those recruited can earn around €26,000 per annum including basic pay and premium pay.
But the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation and the Psychiatric Nurses Association have reiterated their opposition to the programme, which they warn will lead to the loss of 1,000 posts currently held by experienced nurses and midwives.
They have described it as a “flawed initiative” that is “nothing other than an attempt to introduce cheap labour under a superficial guise of an educational graduate programme”.
Graduates on the programme will have the full responsibilities of other regulated professionals, but without any special mentoring and will and on a lower salary, the unions claim.
They urged all new graduates to ignore the programme, arguing that it was a “false start” to a graduate career.
PNA general secretary Des Kavanagh said: “The HSE continues to present this flawed initiative as some sort of opportunity for new graduates. All it is, in reality, is an overt attempt to recruit cheap labour in breach of agreed salaries.”
Liam Doran, general secretary of the INMO, added: “There are no new jobs attached to this initiative and its introduction will simply put 1,000 experienced nurses and midwives out of work, while giving only transient work to the new graduates.
“The INMO/PNA therefore reiterates our call, to all new graduates, to boycott this initiative,” he said.
“We repeat our message to all new graduates; do not get your career off to a false start, boycott these contracts and respect yourself, your degree and your profession”.
But the HSE argued that the programme would reduce reliance on agency nurses and overtime, which it said was “unsustainable”, rather than see permanent nursing posts cut.
Barry O’Brien, the HSE’s national director for human resources, said: “I find it very difficult to understand the IMNO’s reaction to this initiative, as in the past they and other unions have criticised the HSE for not retaining graduates in the health services – leaving them with no other option but to go abroad for work.”
He added: “In the current economic environment, and with very limited recruitment opportunities in the public sector, this is an opportunity for 2012 nursing and midwifery graduates to gain substantial clinical experience to further their career and professional development, with the security of a two-year contract and salary.”
The first phase of the Post Qualification Nursing & Midwifery Initiative 2013 launched on 11 January and will close at 12pm 18 January. It covers registered general nurses in acute and community settings.
A second phase will cover mental health, learning disabilities, midwifery and paediatrics. It will be launched in February.
The HSE said it envisaged that the first of the appointments from phase one will be in place at the end of February.