Student nurses are being used as "slave labour" according to Solidarity-People Before Profit TD Mick Barry.
Mr Barry told the Dáil student nurses are being "exploited", according to the Irish Examiner, criticising the Government for failing to pay student nurses and midwives the same rate as health care assistants.
Approximately 4,000 student nurses and midwives have worked in healthcare settings during the Covid-19 pandemic, unable to work outside the hospital they are on placement in due to the risk of spreading the virus, yet only receive a weekly allowance of €50.
Mr Barry added that being a healthcare worker is "the most dangerous job in Ireland in 2020" adding the refusal to pay student nurses and midwives is a poor reflection on how we treat our young people and women, as "the majority of student nurses and midwives are young and the vast majority are women".
"Is their exploitation a reflection of gender inequality? Of course, it is," Mr Barry added.
Today I moved a Solidarity-PBP motion that aims to end the non-payment of student nurses and midwives for the dangerous work they perform in our hospitals#EducationNotExploitation #StudentNurses @solidarityie pic.twitter.com/4PWe11u2FS
— Mick Barry TD (@MickBarryTD) December 2, 2020
Solidarity-PBP have brought a motion before the Dáil to pay students nurses and midwives and to abolish of between €3,000 and €7,500 for students training to work on the frontline.
The Party says this will allow the HSE to recruit sufficient staff to allow the health service to operate safely.
The Government has opted not to support, tabling amendments to the motion instead. Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly was also absent from the debate, drawing criticism from the Opposition.
Labour leader Alan Kelly said he has also heard from qualified nurses who returned to Ireland at the beginning of the pandemic to assist the HSE but have opted to leave again as they cannot secure permanent jobs, adding students in the sector were being used as "slave labour".
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has been calling for increased allowances for all student nurses and midwives while final year students should also be paid on par with healthcare assistants.
A petition launched by the INMO appealing for fair pay for student nurses and midwives has received nearly 20,000 signatures. It calls on Minister for Health to bring in pay for final year students at the same level as healthcare assistants, and increase and expand the clinical placement allowance for all other students.
An INMO spokesperson told BreakingNews.ie: “It just shows the public are way ahead of the political system when it comes to supporting nurses and midwives.
“We're hoping that this is something that can be dealt with relatively quickly. We're not talking about a huge number of people, but we're talking about people who are making a big contribution.”