The executive of the Irish Nurses Organisation is to table an emergency motion at its annual conference seeking support for any action necessary for nurses to secure all pay increases due.

The INO conference opens this evening in Co Kerry. The emergency motion has been tabled for tomorrow.

The Health Service Executive has threatened to withhold a 3.5% pay increase for nurses next month because it claims they are refusing to support the introduction of health care assistants in hospitals.

Health care assistants would perform duties such as taking a patient’s temperature and blood pressure, however, their relationship to nurses has not been agreed.

The INO says there are professional, ethical and legal issues to be clarified about this new grade of staff.

The motion will open the prospect of industrial action.

Overcrowding, staffing levels on agenda

Overcrowding in Accident and Emergency units and nurse staffing levels are also on the agenda at the INO conference.

The three-day conference will also debate plans by the HSE to put extra beds in wards to ease pressure on A&E services.

The Tánaiste and Minister for Health, Mary Harney, will address the conference on Friday and engage in a question and answer session.

Around 340 delegates are expected to debate around 70 motions, which also include tackling the hospital superbug, MRSA.

For the past month, nurses have been holding lunchtime protests at hospitals around the country to highlight conditions in A&E departments.