The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation and health employers are to return to the Labour Court in a bid to resolve the nurses and midwives dispute.

Following an executive meeting this afternoon, the INMO said this would allow the court to examine what it called the disputed clauses in the proposed new nursing contract.

The INMO has already described the Government's contract proposals as onerous and unreasonable.

The INMO has deferred its planned ballot on the Labour Court proposals for two weeks in line with its previous decision that members would not be balloted without a satisfactory contract.

INMO General Secretary Phil Ni Sheaghdha said the union was deeply disappointed with the Government's attempts to "stretch" the limits set by the Labour Court in the contract talks. 

She said Government insistence on unreasonable contract terms would put nurses and midwives in some of the most insecure jobs in Ireland, allowing unilateral changes to work locations and hours and she added that the INMO would not allow this.

She said the Government proposals would only worsen the recruitment and retention problems in nursing.

She said the INMO believed that the Government's proposed contract goes far beyond the Labour Court recommendation - and they will make this case to the court. 

She said it will continue to exhaust all avenues to achieve the aim of improving conditions for members, and delivering safe patient care. 

Talks between the INMO, SIPTU, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, the Department of Health, and the Health Service Executive concluded late last night with no agreement.

The new contract was part of last month's Labour Court ruling aimed at averting further strikes by nurses and midwives.

It must deliver productivity reforms to offset the cost of a new higher pay scale, including more flexible rosters and greater potential for redeployment.

SIPTU Health Divisional Organiser Paul Bell said management demands on issues including working hours, rosters and redeployment would fundamentally undermine nursing terms and conditions.

SIPTU will meet later this week to consider its next move. However, as of now, it does not look as if this dispute is over.

In a statement today, SIPTU Nursing Sector Organiser Kevin Figgis said: "It is our assessment that the totality of the proposals either provide little or no benefit for some nursing and midwifery grades and destabilise the entire concept of a workplace location and a structured rostered day.

"As there are no further talks scheduled, the SIPTU Nursing and Midwifery Sector will meet this week for the purpose of agreeing on a communication strategy and a secret ballot to allow members to have the final say on these proposals."

The HSE and Department of Health issued a statement saying: "Health service management remains available for further discussion with nursing unions.

"Management is committed to upholding the recommendation issued by the Labour Court and accepted by the Government, and to meeting the reforms laid out in Sláintecare."

A spokesperson for the Psychiatric Nurses Association said the contract presented to it last week was unacceptable and that the official side have been informed of this.

He said the PNA hopes to further engage with the official side this week.