Covid-19 bonus for frontline health workers under ‘active consideration’

Labour leader says staff often called heroes for pandemic efforts but have not received a reward

An art installation ‘Frontline workers Honoured’ was displayed in Smithfield Square in Dublin last year. The Government is given active consideration to a bonus for staff for their efforts during the Covid-19 pandemic, the Taoiseach has said.  Photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times.

An art installation ‘Frontline workers Honoured’ was displayed in Smithfield Square in Dublin last year. The Government is given active consideration to a bonus for staff for their efforts during the Covid-19 pandemic, the Taoiseach has said. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times.

 

The Government is giving “active consideration” to a bonus to reward frontline healthcare workers for their efforts throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin signalled that an extra payment or additional leave for those workers in hospitals and other healthcare settings was being looked at.

He said the Government was “fully committed” to recognising the effort and sacrifices of frontline workers and said Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath was assessing the matter.

Mr Martin was responding in the Dáil to Labour leader Alan Kelly who said the State needed to show its gratitude and give “special recognition” to healthcare workers for what they did through the pandemic.

He said this should be shown in a “meaningful way that can make an impact on their lives and show that we are truly grateful”.

Lack of flexibility

Mr Kelly said unions representing frontline health workers had been in talks with the HSE at the Workplace Relations Commission over a bonus payment, but the State was “showing a complete lack of flexibility and humility towards our healthcare workers” for the sacrifices they made under major constraints.

“We call them healthcare heroes often, and that’s truly what they are, but we need to actually demonstrate that financially” and “show how appreciative they are,” Mr Kelly said.

The Tipperary TD said that in April of last year he proposed that healthcare workers should receive a €1,000 pandemic payment and pointed to other countries which had done so including France, where health service employees got an average monthly pay increase of €183. He said the NHS in Scotland paid workers a £500 bonus and Canadian healthcare workers received a $1,200 reward.

Stressing the Government’s commitment to recognising workers’ efforts Mr Martin acknowledged that frontline workers in particular had put their lives at risk.

“Many became infected with Covid. Some staff lost their lives,” he added.