Student nurses and midwives are to press ahead with protests over Government plans to cut their pay as industrial trouble-shooters hear their case.
A mass rally is also planned by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) over cost-cutting proposals to phase out salaries for fourth year trainees working on wards during a nine-month placement.
The country's 6,000 trainee nurses and midwives will be balloted to withdraw their labour from early March by the nursing union, Psychiatric Nurses Association and Siptu, with Liam Doran, general secretary, saying the union would continue with its campaign of action until the cuts were reversed.
The first lunchtime protest will be staged at 13 hospitals across the country from 12.30pm to 1.30pm on Wednesday. The INMO stressed patient care would not be affected during the demonstration.
Mr Doran accused health chiefs of imposing slave labour on 1,600 fourth year pre-registration nurses and midwives who would work 12 hour days, night shifts and weekends in place of qualified colleagues.
"No one can seriously expect people to work the full roster and range of duties, while replacing qualified staff, for no pay," said Mr Doran.
"This was a flawed, ill-thought-out and unnecessary decision, by an outgoing government, which is insulting to every nurse and midwife in this country."
He went on: "The constant reference to the protection of frontline staff and services is once again seen to be nothing more than empty rhetoric. In reality, this decision attacks the lowest-paid workers in the health service and cannot, and will not, be tolerated or accepted."
Union leaders, the Department of Health and Health Service Executive will all attend a hearing at the Labour Relations Commission on Wednesday.
Health chiefs maintain the budgetary decision to gradually reduce and phase out pay for student nurses was necessary given the scale of the budget deficit - and would save 32.5 million euro in 2015 if payments were abolished in respect of 1,622 student nurses entering the undergraduate degree programme this year.