Support for nurses’ protests against low graduate pay rates

A motion was passed at the first Class Rep Council meeting of the semester to support student nurses in their protests against cuts to graduate wages.

A campaign against salary reductions for graduate nurses in training programmes was launched last week at Leinster House by the Union of Students in Ireland (USI).

Newly-graduated nurses undertaking training programmes will be paid €2 less than the minimum wage, totalling €22,000 a year.

The €6.40 per-hour wage will be set for the first three months of training, rising to just over €10 for the final 12 weeks of the programme.

The USI has spoken out about the decrease and is calling for the government to increase nurses’ salaries.

Speaking about the protest, USI President Joe O’Connor explained that the drop in wages is forcing nurses to emigrate.

“Our hospitals need nurses to stay in Ireland to work. The message to Minister [for Health James] Reilly is loud and clear; change the starting salary level back to €26,000 for newly graduated nurses.”

DCU Childrens’ and General Nursing student Shauna Kilbride was at the CRC meeting and told The College View that she was appalled by the government’s treatment of young nurses.

“It’s bad enough we’ve worked almost 15 months for them for free which includes long shifts, staying on late and not taking breaks because the hospitals are so busy caring for our patients. Now the government want to pay us €6.49 an hour for our internship, where we are legally and morally responsible and accountable for our patients’ care with no extra money for nights or weekends.

I know girls who are working as care assistants instead of nurses because they earn more and this is after four years of paying college fees and working for free. Apprentices such as carpenters, electricians and plumbers get paid to work and go to their FÁS training course; why can’t we be treated the same?”

Third-year General Nursing student in Trinity College, Adam Miller, says the current situation is disheartening for all graduates but more so for those with children.

“It’s the new grads with a family to support that I feel sorry for. I have the option to up and leave; they don’t because it will be extremely difficult for them if they do so. [The government are] expecting them, many of them single parents, to support a family on €22,000 with a mortgage to pay. I’m sorry, but they’d be better off on the dole.”

Larger demonstrations by the USI will be taking place in Dublin city centre in the coming weeks.

Emily Bodkin

Image Credit: Conor MacCabe Photography

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