The campaign launched by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) to end the exploitation of student nurses and midwives is gaining momentum. The nursing union started a petition demanding that the health minister ensure sufficient remuneration and safety for student nurses and midwives in Ireland. The petition has received 19,211 signatures as of November 27. It demands that the state must pay all final-year interns at the same rate as healthcare assistants. It also calls for increasing the clinical placement allowance for all other students and providing full health and safety protection, including payment for COVID-19-related leave.
According to the INMO, before their final year internship, most student nurses and midwives get either nothing or an allowance of only €50.79(USD 60.58) per week. In March this year, during the start of the pandemic, a Health Service Executive (HSE) scheme was used to pay the salaries of many student healthcare assistants, but it is no longer operational.
According to INMO general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha, “our students are being taken for granted. They are facing huge workloads and risking COVID-19 infection. And while they are doing indispensable work, they are getting no financial recognition for their efforts.”
Sheaghdha also complained that student nurses do not receive the same protections provided to employees. While most third-level students (students in higher education) are advised to stay off campus and study online, nursing and midwifery students have to attend dangerous workplaces to fulfill their learning objectives.
“Extra work, serious risk, and other sources of income being cut, student nurses and midwives are getting a raw deal. It is beyond time to respect their contribution and pay them. The message is simple: stop exploiting student nurses and midwives,” Sheaghdha said.
The Connolly Youth Movement (CYM) expressed solidarity with the Irish nurses’ campaign and stated, “make sure to support student nurses in their struggle to actually get paid. They go on internships and work for free. They should be paid. Pay our nurses!”
As of November 27, around 71,494 COVID-19 infections have been reported in Ireland, with 2036 deaths. INMO and progressive sections in the country have been continuously demanding for strengthening of the Irish public health system through more resources and infrastructure. In January 2019, over 35,000 Irish nurses, under the leadership of INMO, took out a historic strike demanding better wages and more recruitment.