Press Release

Cowen disappointed by rejection of Labour Court recommendation on nurses pay

The Minister for Health and Children, Mr Brian Cowen T.D., today (Wednesday, 22nd September, 1999) issued the following statement:

“I am deeply disappointed that the members of the four nursing unions have rejected the Labour Court recommendation on nurses’ pay. This followed on a call for rejection by three of the four nursing union executives.

The Labour Court’s determination was a fair one and deserved more careful consideration. It represented the culmination of a lengthy negotiating process on nurses’ pay and conditions that has taken four years to complete. The Court itself acknowledged that, over the past two years, nurses have justifiably improved their position not just financially but in terms of gaining recognition for the enhanced role of the profession.

The ongoing cost of the salary increases, enhanced annual leave and allowances rejected by nurses is in the region of £pound;60 million. This, on top of the 1997 Nurses’ Pay settlement which cost £pound;85m and other improvements in incremental credit and overtime already conceded, would result in an increased pay bill of over £pound;150m annually. The total additional cost in 1999 would be over £pound;100m because of the non-recurring cost of lump sums of £pound;1,250 for each nurse and retrospection on allowances.

The Labour Court recommendation of 31 August 1999 includes among other elements: (i) increases of 10% for Ward Sister and other higher grades, (b) significant improvements in annual leave; an extra three days for Staff Nurses and an extra four days for promotional grades, in both cases after ten years’ service; (c) a lump sum of £1,250 for all nurses, contingent upon acceptance of the recommendation.

When the latest Labour Court recommendation is implemented, the maximum salary of Ward Sisters will have increased from £20,023 before the 1997 settlement to £27,522 – an increase of over 37% inclusive of general and special increases. The maximum pay of Staff Nurses has increased over the same period from £17,747 to £22,339 – an increase of almost 26%. Many Staff Nurses and a significant number of Ward Sisters also stand to benefit from increases in location/specialist qualification allowances from £333 to £1,000/£1,500 recommended by the Court in February 1999.

The Government is committed to paying the full terms of the Labour Court Recommendation and as far as the Government is concerned that offer remains on the table. However, there is no possibility of improving upon the terms of the Labour Court recommendation.

I would ask all nurses to think carefully before voting for strike action. Not only is such action in direct breach of the Industrial Peace clause of Partnership 2000, it also endangers the entire national partnership approach, which has served the country so well.

I would ask nurses once again to look at the entire package of measures that have been introduced to improve the position of nurses and develop the profession. The level of investment in nursing is significant and ongoing. Apart altogether from the improvements in pay and conditions, substantial resources, totalling more than £40m, have been made available for the education of student nurses in third level institutes, for management development programmes for nurses and for continuing nursing education.

The Government, for its part, remains fully committed to implementing the recommendations of the Commission on Nursing, which are designed to tackle the underlying problems within the profession and develop nursing and midwifery as a key profession within the health services.”