A CORK TD has said the Government needs to “step up” and pay student nurses a fair wage.
Speaking in the Dáil, Solidarity TD Mick Barry said student nurses are taking risks on the frontline every day but are being paid nothing for their efforts.
“Fifty nurses a day have to quit work either having contracted the disease or having been a close contact of someone who has,” he said.
Before their final year internship, most student nurses and midwives are either unpaid or receive an allowance of just €50.79 per week, which Deputy Barry described as “pitiful”.
“I understand that the Department [of Health] is currently in negotiations with the INMO (Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation) on the student pay issue so can you give the house an update on the progress of these talks and give some indication as to when they might be concluded?” he asked Tánaiste Leo Varadkar.
Mr Varadkar confirmed that negotiations are underway but said he was unable to provide an update on these talks at present.
“Hopefully they will come to a conclusion but they’re best done between Government and the union rather than being played out here [in the Dáil],” he continued.
Labour Leader Alan Kelly also called for student nurses to be paid what they deserve.
In response, Mr Varadkar expressed his appreciation for the efforts of student nurses during the pandemic, but added that the issue of paying them should be considered within a “wider context”.
“I think we all appreciate the extra work that student nurses have done during the pandemic period to help us to increase our health service capacity and indeed a lot of student nurses were taken on as healthcare assistants during the first wave [of Covid-19] in recognition of that and were paid for that purpose,” he said.
“It is important to acknowledge that generally, across the public service, students aren’t paid.
“Medical students aren’t paid, Garda trainees aren’t paid, teacher trainees aren’t paid,” he continued.
The Dáil debate followed a recent petition launched by the INMO.
The union has set out three requests: that all final year interns are paid the same as healthcare assistants, to increase and expand the clinical placement allowance for all other students and to provide full health and safety protection to all students, including payment if they have to go on Covid-related leave.