Intensive talks between nursing unions and the Government are taking place at the Workplace Relations Commission in a bid to finalise a new employment contract for nurses and midwives. 

The new contract containing productivity savings was recommended by the Labour Court to offset the cost of a new better paid nursing grade and the wider distribution of allowances. 

The Labour Court issued its recommendation after three days of strike action by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation last month.

Further planned strike action was suspended to allow consideration of the Labour Court proposals. 

The court said the new contract should be completed by this Monday, three weeks after the recommendation was issued. 

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, which oversees public service pay, has costed the implementation of the proposed new nurses deal at €10-€15 million this year, and €30-€35 million in 2020. 

However, those costings are conditional on the delivery of significant savings through productivity measures to be contained in the proposed new contract. 

The department has so far refused to divulge its estimate for the savings to be secured from various proposals for efficiencies and new work practices. 

Should the new contract fail to deliver sufficient savings, the cost of the deal to the taxpayer would spiral. 

Draft government proposals including variable roster shifts, redeployment and limitations on double-jobbing have so far been rejected by unions. 

The INMO is due to begin a ballot of its members on the Labour Court recommendation but industrial observers say it is hard to see how that ballot can take place unless the new contract is finalised and fully explained to members before they vote. 

The INMO, SIPTU, and delegations from the Health Service Executive, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the Department of Health returned to the WRC yesterday afternoon but adjourned late last night without agreement. 

 It is understood that the key sticking points were rostering, redeployment and performance management.

The talks resumed this afternoon. 

The Psychiatric Nurses Association, which represents around 6000 nurses but is not affiliated to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, is not attending the talks.