Gardaí seek to join discussion on pandemic bonuses for frontline workers

Sinn Féin wants €200 voucher for everyone in country and extra bank holiday introduced

Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty  suggested   the Government should give every adult in the country a voucher for €200   which they could spend in the tourism and hospitality industry. Photograph:  Gareth Chaney/Collins

Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty suggested the Government should give every adult in the country a voucher for €200 which they could spend in the tourism and hospitality industry. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

Pressure on the Government to pay a “pandemic bonus” to frontline workers in the public service increased on Sunday when the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) said that its members would seek to be part of any scheme.

Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty backed the call for a bonus payment to frontline workers but said the Government should also give a voucher of €100-€200 to everyone in the country to spend in the hospitality industry as well as introduce an extra bank holiday.

The general secretary of the AGSI Antoinette Cunningham said gardaí should be “brought into the conversation” about bonuses “because of the service we did provide over the last 18 months and continue to provide”.

Speaking on RTÉ’s This Week programme, Ms Cunningham said gardaí “stepped up and responded to the challenge”. She indicated that extra annual leave or a new bank holiday would not be as suitable for gardaí as a cash payment, but said she did not want to be prescriptive about what form the bonus would take.

Separately, it is understood that Garda staff representatives have already submitted claims for loss of earnings during the pandemic.

Suggestion

Mr Doherty added Sinn Féin’s voice to those looking for a bonus payment for frontline workers.

His proposals went significantly beyond a bonus scheme for public servants, however, and included the suggestion that the Government should give every adult in the country a voucher for €200 – and everyone under 18 a voucher for €100 – which they could spend in the tourism and hospitality industry.

The cost of this, which is modelled on a similar scheme in Northern Ireland, where all adults are to be given a £100 (€117) voucher, has been estimated by Sinn Féin at €522 million.

He also said that there should be an additional bank holiday next year to commemorate the 1916 Rising and also the work done by frontline workers in the pandemic.

He said the bonus scheme for frontline workers, which could take the shape of cash payments or additional leave, should be negotiated by the Government “in a spirit of generosity”.

Mr Doherty declined to say how much the entire package might cost, citing the need for negotiations between the Government and public sector trade unions.

There is growing alarm in the Department of Finance and the Department of Public Expenditure at the potential cost of a bonus scheme for frontline workers in the public sector. Last week Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath warned that the cost of a bonus for all public sector workers in the shape of two weeks’ extra holidays could be in excess of €1 billion.

But the idea of bonuses for frontline workers has received support from several Ministers, including the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and the Minister for Health.