Claims by trade unions for the provision of additional leave for all health staff as a recognition for work carried out during the Covid pandemic could be possibly the single largest and most costly demand ever served on a single employer, health service management has claimed.
The HSE told the Labour Court on Wednesday the claim for 10 days additional leave sought by unions could cost €377 million "without taking into account the potential cost related to the means of implementation of a settlement".
The Labour Court in a recommendation effectively urged health service employers and trade unions to engage further between themselves to address the claim at the earliest opportunity.
The group of unions representing staff in the HSE, known as the staff panel, had sought an additional 10 days leave for all personnel, the Labour Court recommendation says.
It says unions maintained that there should be “special recognition” for healthcare workers in respect of their response to the pandemic.
Unions argued that healthcare workers faced higher risks, had been required to provide critical interventions and show greater adaptability than most others in society during the Covid-19 crisis.
Health service employers told the Labour Court it would be appropriate and prudent to await a decision of the Government, which had signalled it intended to deal with the issue in the autumn.
Employers also maintained that “given the potential cost factors involved, appropriate consideration of any recognition measure can only take place in the context of wider budgetary consideration”.
Unions have called for immediate talks with the HSE on recognition for healthcare worker’s efforts during COVID, on foot of the Labour Court recommendation.
Tony Fitzpatrick, chair of the staff panel, said the Labour Court had recognised the “extraordinary efforts” of health workers throughout the pandemic.
“This is a simple matter of justice for our members. They have made incredible sacrifices and taken huge risks throughout the pandemic.
“It is time for the HSE and Government to recognise their efforts meaningfully, as has been done in other countries across Europe.”
The staff panel of health care workers unions represents members of the INMO, Siptu , Fórsa, IMO, MLSA, UNITE, CONNECT, and the craft group of unions.