Late on Tuesday the 2nd of December, the Dáil rejected a motion, brought forward by People Before Profit, to pay student nurses and midwives for working during the Covid-19 pandemic. The motion was rejected by a narrow margin of 77-72.

The three parties in government all voted against the motion. The bill would have reinstated payment of €14 an hour to student nurses and midwives. The payment of student nurses was in place brielfy at the beginning of the pandemic.

Disappointed But Not Surprised

Student nurses have voiced their frustration in the wake of the decision, while the University College Dublin Students Union (UCDSU) has condemned the Dáil’s rejection.

Ruairí Power and Leighton Grey of the UCDSU spoke on the matter, stating “These students have been plugging holes left by staffing inadequacies in our public health system for years, with no compensation for their enormous impact. Covid-19 has merely shone a light on what has always been a fundamentally unjust situation.” They also said, “Paying them in claps is not sustainable, or justifiable.”

Meadhbh Flynn, a final year UCD nursing student, voiced her frustration in a SU press release, stating “the government would prefer to pay large sums of money to the greyhound industry rather than to student nurses and midwives. We could not be more disappointed with the vote last night but honestly, we were not surprised. The Irish government has never respected us. How can the government expect to retain a workforce that is already fed up with the system before we even qualify?”

The UCD School of Nursing and Midwifery has yet to respond to The College Tribune on the matter.

Nurses & Midwives Call For Support

The Irish Nurses & Midwives Organisation (INMO) have petitioned to the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly. They have asked for final year placement students to be paid the same as healthcare assistants, to increase the clinical placement allowance for all other students and provide PUP if students must go on Covid-19 related leave. The petition stands at 28,300 signatures at the time of writing.

Pearse Doherty of Sinn Fein told the Dáil that student nurses and midwives “have stepped up and stepped into the breach” during the pandemic. This comment is one of man statements that Sinn Fein, Labour, Social Democrats, and People Before Profit representatives have made in support of student nurses.

Government Response

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has stated that “it is not fair to say they (student nurses and midwives) have been taken advantage of” and “the vast majority of students don’t get paid.” Varadkar told the INMO that student allowances are under review and changes will take effect in September 2021.

Meanwhile, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has told student nurses that they can claim Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) if they have lost work due to healthcare placement. The PUP will be backdated from when the individual stopped working.

Green Party TD Marc Ó Cathasaigh stated on twitter that the bill “goes well beyond the pay to include travel and accommodation costs, abolition of all fees for frontline workers, and the length of the working week.”

 He also cited the language in the bill as ‘problematic’, tweeting “the use of the word ‘exploitation’ in the bill… you may agree or disagree with that, but for the Oireachtas to pass a motion containing that phrase would have consequences.” Ó Cathasaigh concluded his explanation of the bills rejection by stating “Everyone wants to do their best for student nurses, but this motion wasn’t the way to do it.”

Luke Murphy, Co-Editor