Nursing Alliance calls for improved pay, working conditions and career prospects for nurses.

The government has been warned that hospitals throughout the country could be hit by major disruption unless nurses get more money and better working conditions.

Nurses say they have been neglected for years and years with the result that their morale is at its lowest ever level.

The four unions representing nurses have set up a Nursing Alliance to campaign for justice on behalf of the 26,000 nurses in the Republic of Ireland.

At present, starting pay for a staff nurse is £13,800 a year. The Nursing Alliance wants a better pay and a career structure plan that acknowledges the qualifications of nursing staff.

A ballot on striking is due to take place next month and industrial action could follow. This will involve a series of two day stoppages at hospitals throughout the country. Unions claim that essential hospital services will be maintained throughout and patient lives will not be put at risk. Despite this, non-essential procedures could be hit resulting in longer waiting lists.

Noel Dowling of the Nursing Alliance believes the industrial action will result in the most serious disruption of hospital services this century.

The action is also being supported by the Matron's Association who say that current pay does not reflect the skills and expertise of nurses.

Minister for Health Michael Noonan said that any increase in nursing pay must be in line with increases in public service pay.

An RTÉ News report broadcast on 8 January 1996. The reporter is George Devlin.