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Irish nurse contract proposals described as 'significant step forward' to ending dispute

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Nurses in the Republic of Ireland are being asked to vote on new proposals put forward to end a dispute over their pay and conditions. 

The Irish Nurses & Midwives Organisation (INMO) had found certain parts of a new draft contract for nursing and midwifery staff offered by the government “unreasonable” and demanded changes. The row led to members going on strike.

“There is no longer anything to fear in this new contract”

Phil Ní Sheaghdha

The issue ended up at the Labour Court, which deals with employment disputes in the republic. This week, the court backed the INMO and made a recommendation for amendments to be made to the proposed deal.

These include removing proposals that would mean nurses could be asked to move to a different workplace location mid-shift and to also ditch the idea of introducing four, six and eight hour shifts and “split shifts”.

The Labour Court also recommended that the contract features a requirement for nurses to be put in a position to lead on healthcare reforms.

Members of the INMO will begin voting on the proposals from 8 April and the union is advising them to accept.

INMO general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said: “This Labour Court recommendation is a total vindication for what the INMO has said about the government’s draft contract.

“The government’s proposals were completely unreasonable and we are glad to see the court has recognised this,” she said.

“There is no longer anything to fear in this new contract,” she added.

While noting that the proposed amendments did not resolve all of the union’s concerns, Ms Ní Sheaghdha said it was a “significant step forward”.

“This deal gives our health service a real chance to recruit and retain nurses and midwives and compete with international recruiters,” she added.

Ireland’s health minister Simon Harris welcomed the Labour Court recommendation and said he believed it was a “sensible way forward”.

“People have worked very hard to try resolve this dispute,” he said. “The proposition we now have is good for nursing, good for the health service and I hope nurses will be in a position to respond positively to it.” 

The deal includes:

  • A new “enhanced practice” salary scale, which sees staff nurses and midwives earn up to €2,439 more each year in their career, and get to the maximum point faster;
  • €5m in funding for safe staffing levels in 2019, with extra funding in 2020 and 2021;
  • An independent expert group to look at pay for nurses and midwives in managerial grades;
  • A 20% increase in allowances paid to nurses working in particular specialised or high-intensity areas of the health service and for those with certain qualifications;
  • Speedier pay increases for new nurses and midwives;
  • Promotion to senior staff nurse or midwife after 17 years, not the current 20;
  • Extra promotion opportunities for staff nurses working in learning disabilities
  • Support for education and training.
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