Nurses and midwives are not economists and should not tell Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Finance and Expenditure Paschal Donohoe where to allocate money in relation to public sector wages. More to the point, they should not have to especially when they do not have the time to do so while being understaffed and underpaid.
The topic of fiscal responsibility regarding whether nurses should receive pay parity or not is the main point of friction. Public sector nurses and midwives, that are part of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, entered into the profession knowing they would get paid less than other public sector healthcare professionals. However, that doesn’t make their lack of pay parity right. It could be argued instead that it is exploitative.
The issues of nurses and midwives working conditions have been going on for decades indicating that something needs to change, rather than stating that it is not financially practical to do something.
A significant way in which politicians showed their detachment from the main issue that nurses were striking for was when they said they would enter into talks about staffing levels rather than about pay.
The entire reason for nurses and midwives going on strike was about pay. The bottom line is that nurses and midwives want to be paid equally for the amount of work they do and on the same scale as other healthcare professionals.
The 24 hour work stoppages is one of the most extreme ways 40,000 members of the INMO have protested against their working conditions that remain unchanged. However, during this time they ensured life preserving care was still given to patients by temporary staff which were paid by the HSE in that time.
Varadkar’s handling of the strike displays the lack of sympathy towards nurses and midwives and what they were striking for. He criticised picking a midweek day to strike rather than a weekend. The whole point of the strike was to cause an impact.
With other unions joining the INMO in the rally and on the picket lines as well as the overwhelming support they received, whether it was beeps by passing cars or donations of food, it’s clear that many people do stand with nurses.
It’s time for the government to figure out how they can show the same respect to nurses and midwives, two of the most valuable roles in Irish society, that the public does.
Image Credit: Alison Clair