The Labour Court is expected to issue its recommendation in the nurses' strike on Wednesday morning. The Court heard submissions from both sides today in discussions which ended about an hour ago. The national executives of the four nursing unions are expected to meet on Wednesday afternoon to consider the Court's findings. If the national executives of the four nursing unions accept the Court's proposals, the strike could be deferred pending the outcome of a ballot of the country's 27,500 nurses. Agreement in principle on the creation of a new senior staff nurse grade could be crucial. What the Court will have to decide is how many new senior grades will be created and what additional pay the jobs will attract.

The Chief Executive of the Health Services Employers Agency, Gerry Barry, said that he believed that the Court could build on the proposals made by the two sides over the weekend and could bring them to the point where the unions could call off their strike. The Chairman of the Nursing Alliance, Liam Doran, said that there was now a template which had to be turned into concrete proposals. However, SIPTU's Oliver McDonagh underlined the urgency behind the talks. He said that everyone was aware now of the need for speed.

Direct talks between unions and health service negotiators resumed at Government Buildings last night and broke up just after 6.30am this morning. The talks between union leaders and the Health Service Employers' Agency, under independent chairman, Kevin Duffy, have been going on since Thursday night at Government Buildings. It has been no surprise that the most contentious issue has been the unions' demand for recognition for long-service from staff nurses. This is the issue the Government believes is most likely to lead to knock-on pay claims across the public service sector.

Over the weekend, the Nursing Alliance issued a statement rejecting suggestions that it had abandoned its long-service claim. It said bluntly that recognition for long service for the staff nurse grade must, and would form the basis for any evolving package being put to members for ballot in settlement of the strike.