Nurses' pay will increase by between €4,000 and €6,000 annually under a new sectoral agreement just signed with the government, nurses union president Paul Pace told Times of Malta.

The agreement was signed on Monday in the presence of the prime minister.

Describing the agreement as historic and a milestone, Pace said the pay rises vary according to rank,  but for the first time, young nurses would be benefiting from allowances that were previously only given to management and higher levels.

He said there are increases across various types of allowances: the nursing premium will increase over five years, all nurses irrespective of rank will get an incentive allowance and management allowance previously reserved for top management and there is a raise for professional development.

Apart from these, the hours worked beyond the 40-hour week will be paid at overtime rates. As things stand nurses’ shifts are calculated on a 46-hour weekly shift which means that the extra six hours a week will now be paid at overtime rates.

The agreement also includes revised staff-to-patient ratios for Mater Dei Hospital and St Vincent de Paul Home. At St Vincent de Paul there would be a 1:10 nurse-to-patient ratio during the day and two nurses per ward at night. At Mater Dei there would be a 1:4 ratio during the day and three nurses per ward at night.

“This agreement focuses on the recruitment and retention of young people in the nursing profession. Just to give you an idea out of the 74 nurses who graduated this year only 44 joined the state service, which needs about 100 a year,” he said.

The signing of the agreement, which the government announced in a statement on Tuesday, ends a period characterised by protracted talks and industrial action.

The signing ceremony was also attended by Health Minister Chris Fearne and the Minister for Active Ageing Jo Etienne Abela.

The government said the 4,000 workers involved will enjoy better salaries and conditions. 

Prime Minister Robert Abela said such agreements reflected the government's commitment to invest heavily in sectors that were most beneficial to society, such as health.

He said the government wanted to encourage more young people to join the nursing profession. It was important that health workers were satisfied in their work and well compensated for their efforts, he said.  

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