The Tanaiste has described an opposition motion to pay student nurses working in hospitals as “party politics”.
Leo Varadkar said the Solidarity-People Before Profit motion was “non-binding and unfunded”, adding that it was designed to make the Government look bad.
The Government has come under sustained criticism in recent weeks for not paying student nurses.
The Fine Gael leader said public pay is not voted on in the Dail.
He said, however, that student nurses should be paid in cases where they are acting up and filling in for a staff nurse.
Mr Varadkar told the Dail: “The motion in the Dail last week was party politics, it was non-binding, it was unfunded.
“If it had passed, it would not have been worth a single euro to a single student nurse. It was designed to make the Government look bad, the opposition look good and do nothing for the student nurses.
“Public pay is not voted on in the Dail, ever. Public pay is negotiated between the Government and trade unions and negotiations are now under way on the next pay deal.
“I do think that where student nurses are acting up, where they are filling in for a staff nurse, where they are doing the work of a staff nurse because the ward or clinical area is understaffed, I do think they should be paid for that, quite frankly.
“This is an issue the Government is engaging on, and wants to continue engaging on and will speak to the INMO (Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation) and (trade union) Sipto about this.”
Student nurses are plugging the gaps in a health system that is under severe pressurePearse Doherty
Sinn Fein’s Pearse Doherty claimed it is “politics” that has left student nurses unpaid.
“Student nurses are plugging the gaps in a health system that is under severe pressure. Our student nurses do amazing work,” he added.
“The message is simple – stop exploiting student nurses and midwives.”
A review of allowances for all student nurses is under way, Taoiseach Micheal Martin said this week.
Mr Doherty said the review has been ongoing since October.
“The Minister of Health (Stephen Donnelly) said in October that the review would be concluded in the coming days. It is now the middle of December, so what is taking so long for this issue to be addressed?” he added.
“(We are) carrying a clear message to this parliament that the public want to make sure that our student nurses, who have stepped into the breach in the middle of the pandemic, put themselves and their families at risk, should be rewarded, and should not be expected to man our wards during this pandemic and be paid nothing for it.”