By Jennifer McShane, Intern

Announced in late December last year, the Irish Times revealed that student midwives would have to work for nothing as a result of the latest cutbacks by the Health Department.

Until now students have received 80 per cent of a full salary during their nine-month placements on hospital wards, which form part of their four-year degree programme.

The government?s plan will be by 2015, to have nurses in their final year work intensive full time shifts for 36 weeks of the year with no payment whatsoever. The government plans to reduce salaries gradually from 60 per cent in 2012, to 50 per cent in 2013, to 40 per cent in 2014 and finally to 0 per cent by 2015.

The decision means that the 1,500-plus students who will begin their training programme next year will not receive any payment for their placement in public hospitals towards the end of their course.

As part of cutbacks to be put in place by the Department of Health, several thousand students in training will also see payments for their placement period significantly reduced.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives? Union (INMO) has called the move ?exploitation?, and said that it would mean, effectively, the beginning of an era of ?slave labour? for student nurses.

However, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation said it would fight the planned cuts.

In a statement released to the INMO website on the 4th of January, General Secretary Liam Doran has said: ?the INMO will, in the coming days, be organising meetings, of student members, in colleges and hospitals, to agree the details of a campaign of resistance to this unfair and unjust proposal.?

He also urges all student members not to sigh any new contracts produced by the HSC/Voluntary Hospitals, as these will seek approval to the new cutback measures.

The union?s deputy general secretary David Hughes also said the decision was ?shocking? and it was ?an absolute outrage? to expect anybody who was working 12-hour shifts in hospitals to do so without receiving any payment.

Further details of the action plan proposed by the INMO are expected to be announced in the coming days.