Health chiefs in North Wales are facing a backlash from nurses after proposing a change that would make them 'work an extra free shift per month'.
Nurses and other healthcare workers face losing a half-hour paid break under new plans.
At the moment they get paid for 12 hours when they work a 12.5 shift but they could only get paid for 11.5 hours in the future.
Plaid Cymru Wrexham county councillor Carrie Harper warned Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) chiefs they would find it hard to recruit much-needed nurses if they went ahead with the changes.
She told North Wales Live: “Nurses and HCSWs are at the front line of delivering a fantastic service across the north.
“They’re already working under immense pressure and many have told us that they have to take their breaks on the ward and are effectively on call despite not being paid for those breaks.
"Betsi is cynically trying to exploit nurses’ goodwill to have them stay on site for longer so they can save money on employing agency nurses."
Plaid Cymru has started a petition, which has been signed by thousands, urging the BCUHB to rethink the plans.
It claims the changes would force nurses to 'work an extra free shift per month'.
A nurse who signed the petition warned wards were already operating with less staff and their goodwill would only stretch so far.
READ MORE YAHOO NEWS
BCUHB defended the proposals and said they would actually help staff by giving them adequate breaks when working longer shifts.
Deborah Carter, BCUHB’s acting executive director of nursing and midwifery, added: "This is to support staff wellbeing, enhance patient safety, comply with the Working Time Regulations and to comply with the Nurse Staffing Levels (Wales) Act.”
She said the changes would also reduce the health board’s reliance on agency staff and would be beneficial to patients.
Ms Carter added the BCUHB was willing to work with staff and trade unions during a consultation period to ensure the final plans were right for everyone.