Health staff ‘deeply offended’ at lack of offer to recognise pandemic efforts

Unions say HSE maintained it had no mandate to make any proposal

Healthcare staff are “deeply offended” at the lack of any proposal from the HSE to recognise their efforts during the Covid-19 pandemic, their trade unions have said.

The group of unions representing staff in the HSE said they were told by management at a hearing in the Workplace Relations Commission on Tuesday that it had no mandate to make any offer.

Unions said it “beggared belief” that the HSE had come to the table empty handed after all the hard work carried out by staff and the risks that they had faced in dealing with the virus.

The group of unions – known as the staff panel – had made a claim late last year for “special recognition” of healthcare workers with regard to their response to the virus.

READ MORE

The precise nature of the “special recognition” which is being sought was not spelled out specifically in the claim.

Separately, the Irish Nurses and Midwives’ Organisation (INMO) submitted its own claim which sought 10 days’ additional leave for its members.

Staff bonuses

The unions argued that healthcare employers in France, Northern Ireland, Denmark and elsewhere had offered staff bonuses or pay increases in recognition of their work and sacrifices over the past year.

Tony Fitzpatrick, chair of the national joint council of health sector trade unions – which comprises Siptu, Fórsa, the INMO, the Irish Medical Organisation, Unite, Connect, the Medical Laboratory Scientists' Association and others – said: "Healthcare workers have given their all in the fight against Covid. They have adapted rapidly, worked far beyond their normal responsibilities, and thousands have caught the virus in the line of duty.

Compensation

“Our members are deeply insulted that the Government are still not making any proposals to recognise their efforts.”

“We are now facing into a fourth wave of Covid, with no sign of meaningful recognition of the ongoing efforts made by healthcare workers since the onset of the pandemic.”

A further hearing on the issue is scheduled at the commission for August 5th.

The Government has appeared open to the concept of some form of compensation for staff to recognise their efforts during the pandemic. However, no formal proposal has been made.

Tánaiste and Minister for Employment Leo Varadkar suggested in February that key staff who have worked through the pandemic could receive cash payments or additional leave as an appreciation for their efforts. He said the details on how the workers concerned could be recognised for the contribution could be worked out when the pandemic abated.

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent