Written Answers. - Nurses' Pay.

Máire Geoghegan-Quinn

Ceist:

17 Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn asked the Minister for Health the current position in relation to nurses' pay; if he will consider the appointment of an independent arbitrator to resolve any outstanding issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8807/96]

,Limerick East): As the Deputy will be aware a set of proposals, worked out between health service management and the unions representing nurses, are currently being balloted on by the members of the four unions. The proposals in their entirety, while complex, are designed to address a range of issues identified as their priorities by the union and management sides respectively. The proposals were recommended for acceptance by three of the four unions while no recommendation was made by the fourth. This would suggest a degree of acceptance of the proposals, at least at executive level, by the four unions. For the Government's part, I had indicated repeatedly that the nurses' claim would be looked at in a flexible and sympathetic manner, having regard to the priorities identified by the unions, the additional flexibility and co-operation required to provide an efficient, high quality nursing service and, obviously, the overall pay policy framework within which all claims on behalf of public service employees had to be processed.

I understand that the ballot will be completed today and that a formal announcement will be made tomorrow on the result. Until the full details are made known, it would be inappropriate to pre-empt the result or any possibilities flowing from it.

The nursing unions opted to process their claim through direct restructuring negotiations rather than through arbitration as they were entitled to do under theProgramme for Competitiveness and Work pay agreement for the public service. The question of arbitration on the claim in its totality or on particular aspects therefore does not arise.