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Sunday 10 December 2023 Dublin: 7°C
Sam Boal via Healthcare workers at the vaccination centre at the Helix, north Dublin.

Unions call on Taoiseach to solve row over recognising hardships faced by healthcare workers

The unions said said the delay was “deeply damaging” to the morale of all health care workers.

TRADE UNIONS REPRESENTING health workers have called on Taoiseach Micheál Martin to help resolve the row over recognition for healthcare workers’ efforts and commitment during the pandemic.

In a letter sent last Friday, the various unions urged the Taoiseach to “intervene immediately to authorise the HSE and relevant Government departments to engage with health service unions to agree and implement the promised recognition without any further delay”.

Extra holiday days, as well as non-taxable vouchers, are among some of the bonus ideas being floated.   

Tony Fitzpatrick, who chairs the staff panel of health service unions, said talks with the HSE since last November had resulted in no progress despite public statements from the Taoiseach, health minister Stephen Donnelly and other senior Government figures.

Fitzpatrick wrote: “While health workers appreciate the many supportive statements from you and other Government representatives, they have yet to see any tangible progress towards recognition for their efforts and, in many cases, sacrifice.

“Thousands of dedicated health care workers have had their reasonable expectations raised by the welcome public statements of support by you and other politicians. But they are incredulous at reports that no recognition was offered at the August WRC meeting, and at the news that their unions must now argue their case – seemingly uncontested by the most senior members of Government and health service management – before the Labour Court.”

Fitzpatrick said the delay was “deeply damaging” to the morale of all healthcare workers who, have demonstrated “extraordinary commitment and willingness to respond to national and public need, as well as Government demands in response to the pandemic”.

The unions have referred the dispute to the Labour Court, but say this should not be necessary as there is broad public and political consensus on the issue. “It can only be described as an extraordinary situation,” said Mr Fitzpatrick.

The unions said the Government’s failure to act has put the Republic out of step with Northern Ireland, the UK, and most EU countries, where health workers have already seen recognition of their extraordinary efforts and contribution.

They also point to research that shows staff who work directly with Covid-19 patients are 47 times more likely to catch the virus than those impacted through community-acquired infection. “Over 30,000 healthcare workers have been infected with Covid-19 since the pandemic struck in Ireland, and more than 600 have been infected in the most recent 14-day epidemiological report,” said Fitzpatrick.

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