Frontline medical staff are to be formally recognised for their efforts in battling Covid-19 later this autumn, health officials have said.
It comes following accusations they had arrived “empty handed” to talks with unions on Thursday to address the possibility of “tangible recognition”.
A meeting took place at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) but according to the representative bodies, the Health Service Executive (HSE) "had no offer to make".
However, in response, the HSE said it been advised that it is intended to address the recognition issue with regard to frontline workers in the Autumn, when they believe it should be clearer where the country lies with regard to the pandemic.
“We are not in a position to pre-empt any Government decision in advance of its consideration,” a spokeswoman said.
“The HSE recognise and appreciate the exceptional efforts of staff over the past 18 months and the resilience and flexibility shown during this very difficult time.”
In the immediate aftermath of the talks on Thursday, Tony Fitzpatrick, chairman of the National Joint Council of Health Sector Trade Unions, which includes eight separate organisations, said morale among workers is now extremely low.
“There needs to be some hope of genuine reward for frontline staff,” he said. “Other governments have recognised their healthcare workforce’s contribution meaningfully - yet here we are forced to fight for it.”
The unions have referred the matter to the Labour Court.
Unions have sought some form of special recognition for healthcare staff since late 2020 and have pointed to employers in France, Northern Ireland, Denmark and "elsewhere", who have offered staff bonuses or pay increases in recognition of their work over the past year.
Mr Fitzpatrick highlighted a recent comment made by Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly, when asked if he would support a financial bonus in Ireland. "I want to see something done, yes, I absolutely really do," the Minister said.
“I think our healthcare teams have been incredible. We are still fighting the fight, but I definitely want to see some form of recognition for the extraordinary work that they have all put in.” Mr Donnelly did not offer specifics, however.
Mr Fitzpatrick said that despite his comments last week, Mr Donnelly “sent his officials to talks empty handed”.