Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said the Government has no immediate plans to withdraw pay increments from striking nurses.

However, he warned that position could change if the INMO industrial action continues.

Speaking on RTÉ's This Week programme, Mr Varadkar said nurses had "technically" breached the public service stability agreement by going on strike but to remove pay increments from them might be "provocative and might make it harder to resolve this dispute".

Under the terms of the public service stability agreement the government could stop previously agreed pay rises as a sanction for going on strike.

"The secondary teachers pulled out of the agreement, went on strike and as a result they didn't get the benefits of the pay agreement."

"At a certain point we will have to treat the nurses the same as we treated the secondary teachers," he said.

Read more:
INMO announces two extra strike days, further services affected

He added: "Otherwise it wouldn't be fair to treat the secondary teachers differently to the nurses, but our judgement at the moment is that withdrawing the benefits of the agreement would be provocative, would be an escalation and might make it more difficult to resolve this"

Mr Varadkar also said he did not think setting up an independent body to examine the nurses pay claim would change anything.

He said nurses pay had already been assessed by the Public Service Pay Commission.

"Yes it can be done again but I'm not sure precisely why that would yield a different outcome"

Meanwhile, Minister for Communications Richard Bruton has said the difficulty for the Government is the demand of €300m which would have a knock-on affect. 

Speaking on RTÉ’s The Week in Politics, he said the collective pay agreement is put there to balance justifiable claims with the need for more investment in public service.

He said a solution has to be found within the collective agreement. 

He said the Government could not manage a situation where one pay settlement of €300m would have knock affects throughout the system.

Yesterday the INMO announced two additional dates for the nurses and midwives strike, with an increase in the number of services being affected.

Strikes days will now take place on 19 and 21 February, in addition to dates set for 5 and 7 February, and from 12-14 February.

The INMO has also said it will be organising a national rally on Saturday 9 February.