On Wednesday 2nd December, the government in the Dàil, namely Fianna Fàil, Fine Gael, and the Green Party betrayed student nurses and midwives by voting against paying them for their labour. They have been working on the frontlines in health threatening conditions since March.
Months ago, Simon Harris claimed that student nurses would be paid for the work they have been doing but has, not surprisingly, completely backtracked on this. They have worked as full members of staff throughout the pandemic, doing the same work as any other nurses and midwives, facing the same risks on a daily basis and have been working the same 12 hour shifts. The nursing degree course is already very demanding for students. Many nursing students are also working in nursing homes and other health care settings as health care assistants while studying for their course.
Most insultingly, Fianna Fáil commented that the reason student nurses shouldn’t be paid for their work is because they don’t do “real work” on the wards. This above all else illustrates how out of touch the government and ruling parties are from the realities of the very pandemic they are meant to be managing. They are detached from the reality of the health care system, the hospitals, the conditions in the hospitals for patients and staff, and the effects the pandemic has had on the working class and particularly frontline healthcare workers. Student nurses are an integral part of the healthcare system and they do very ‘real’ work.
For context, the minister for health’s salary is €14000 per month, with €1333 being claimed on expenses on top of this. Student nurses receive 40 cents an hour for travel expenses.
This decision on behalf of the government is an illustration of its inability to deal with the crisis and its unwillingness to help the working class or frontline workers with anything other than a round of applause.
We must fight for a fully funded national health service that can provide healthcare for all, as well as full pay, terms and conditions for all members of staff, including student nurses.