The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation has warned that the crisis in recruiting and retaining nurses will not be resolved without financial incentives.
INMO General Secretary Liam Doran said the ball is in Health Service Executive management's court if strike action by nurses is to be averted.
Shortly before Christmas, INMO members already backed industrial action up to and including one day strikes by a margin of 90% amid frustration at understaffing and overcrowding.
However, they agreed to defer serving notice of industrial action to allow for talks with HSE management.
Arriving for the commencement of those negotiations, Mr Doran said he is certain that the staffing crisis will not be solved without financial incentives - though that would need discussions.
However, he said non-financial incentives would also be required to address eight years of what he called abject neglect, disrespect, the toleration of poor staffing levels, the compromising of patient care, and a workforce that was burnt out.
He said the first requirement was for the HSE to clarify whether it accepts that over 4,000 more nurses and midwives need to be recruited to ensure a safe health service.
He said the service still had 3,500 fewer nurses than in 2008, while the health service was more than 20% busier.
He described this as a resource issue, not a pay issue.
Asked whether his members would be prepared to accept the issue of financial incentives being deferred until the Public Service Pay Commission and the Lansdowne Road Agreement succesor talk sometime after April, Mr Doran said that would be a matter for negotiations.
When asked how much time the INMO would give the talks before serving notice of industrial action, Mr Doran confirmed that the union's executive will meet this Monday to make that decision.
He said the ball was now in the management's court - adding that there had been enough talk, and it was time for a demonstration of action.
Mater Hospital ED experiencing long wait times
Dublin's Mater Hospital has said it is experiencing very high numbers and long wait times in its emergency department.
It has urged people not to attend the department unless absolutely necessary and said they go to their GP first, or the Rapid Injury Clinic in Smithfield with any minor injuries.
It said people attending the ED will be looked after according to priority, so less urgent cases will experience delays.