Mayo nurses’ contracts renewed at last minute after they refused lower pay

Eleven general staff nurses in Mayo General Hospital, who were facing the prospect of being unemployed at the end of this week, have had their contracts renewed for a three month period after the nurses boycotted the offering of a graduate programme which would lead to an immediate 20 per cent decrease in their wages.

Earlier this week management informed the nurses, who have been employed in the hospital since September 2012, that their current contracts of employment will be terminated from May 19. The nurses were told that they instead would be offered the graduate placement programme which will impose an immediate 20 per cent pay cut in their pay.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO ) industrial relations officer, Regina Durcan condemned the termination of the qualified nurses’ contracts. She said that these nurses who have been employed in the hospital since they graduated last year are needed “in this very busy hospital” and these nurses are required in order for a safe standard of nursing practice to be maintained in the clinical ward areas where they work.

Ms Durcan said that the director of nursing told her that if these nurses reject the graduate programme this will lead to a “contingency plan being put in place”, which will require a reduction in the level of service provided to the public in Mayo General Hospital.

She added that the INMO condemns the offering of the graduate placement programme to these nurses “as there is currently no graduate placement programme. This process has not been agreed and is being negotiated at national level”.

The representative said that since 2009 graduate nurses have seen their pay decrease from €33,470 to the current offering of €22,000 on the graduate placement.

By Wednesday evening there was a U turn on the decision to terminate these contracts. Instead these nurses will receive three month contracts of employment on 100 per cent salary. Speaking after this breakthrough Ms Durcan said: “This is good news for the delivery of frontline nursing care services to patients in Mayo General Hospital. If the contracts of these nurses were terminated there would have had to be a reduction in the level of service provided by the hospital as there is already extreme pressure on nursing staff to maintain a safe standard of care to their patients.”

Local Independent councillor and SIPTU representative Michael Kilcoyne has however slated the Government and the HSE for even considering the termination of these contracts. “How can you take 11 nurses out of relatively small hospital and offer them contracts of 20 per cent less?” Cllr Kilcoyne said that this was being done by the same Government who wouldn’t vote against the chief executive of Bank of Ireland’s pay, yet would reduce nurses income by 20 per cent. “Shame on them and shame on the HSE,” the councillor said.

Cllr Kilcoyne said that it is not just these 11 nurses who have uncertain futures but also—as reported at the end of March by the Mayo Advertiser—10 psychiatric nurses in Mayo who have been working on temporary monthly contracts and were told in the space of a day that their contracts would not be renewed, while later that day they were asked to sign a new four week contract; these contracts are now coming to an end.

The councillor said that Mayo General Hospital downgrading has begun, “I predicted this three years ago and said that the hospital would be nothing but a glorified nursing home.” He concluded by saying that the HSE is “going from crisis to crisis” and “have no clue what is happening next Christmas never mind in the long term”.

Earlier in the week An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny welcomed the announcement by NUI Galway president, Dr Jim Browne, that Galway University Foundation and NUI Galway are to invest €2 million to support clinical training facilities for medical students at Mayo General Hospital as part of the Mayo Medical Academy initiative.

The Taoiseach said: “The ongoing development of the Mayo Medical Academy is an important strategic investment by NUI Galway in the region. It will support university medical education at Mayo General Hospital, thereby enhancing its reputation and significantly benefiting the local knowledge economy.”

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