“WHY should we work for free when no-one else will?” said Student Nurse Maura Ryan from Birr, at a protest of student nurses at the Midlands Regional Hospital at Tullamore on Wednesday.
Over 200 student nurses from hospitals in Laois, Offaly, Longford and Westmeath gathered outside the hospital to voice their anger at cuts in placement payments.
“The protest is about the pay cuts that the Government announced in mid December for student nurses undertaking their fourth year clinical rostered placement, which is for 36 weeks,” said INMO Industrial Relations Officer Lorraine Monaghan.
She explained that the pre reg nurses work on the wards, replacing qualified nurses and working 12 hour days, weekends and night duties.
Ms Monaghan added, “They have to work the full roster 37 and a half hours a week. They have to give their full commitment to the HSE and they signed up to a contract that they would paid 80% of the minimum point of the staff nurse salary scale in their fourth year during their clinical placement. And now what the Government has announced is the phasing out of that payment to eventually no payment at all by 2015.”
Ms Monaghan described their work as amounting to ‘slave labour’.
“It’s gross exploitation of workers. It devalues the very profession of nursing. So that’s why we are mounting this campaign of resistance starting today with the protest across 13 sites, outside 13 hospital in the country and in the midlands.”
There is a follow up protest rally today (Wednesday, February 16) from Parnell Street in Dublin up to the Department of Health where protestors will hand in a letter for the incoming Minister for Health.
“We are also in the process of looking to meet with the five political parties to get their position on the situation and asking them overtly will they reverse the pay cut if they are in power. The votes of the students and their extended families will be influenced by the response from these political parties,” stressed Ms Monaghan.
She said they were very happy with the numbers who turned up for the protest describing them as ‘good for just one area’.
Ms Monaghan outlined, “Students are very much behind the campaign. The message we are trying to get out there to the public is that it’s not like a normal student programme if you are doing training on the job or you are there to observe. These nurses are pre reg nurses and are a part of the nursing complement. There a part of the workforce so they replace the paid qualified nurses and that’s why it would amount to slave labour if they weren’t to receive any pay for that whatsoever.”
Student nurse Mary Delaney from Clonaslee said they were being doubly cut as not only was their percentage being cut but their wages which the percentage is being taken from is down as well.