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Unions refer pandemic bonus request for health workers to Labour Court

The HSE said that it is expected that the recognition issue will be addressed in the autumn.

HEALTH SERVICE UNION have referred a request for a pandemic bonus to the Labour Court after it said the HSE made no such offer for the work healthcare workers have done during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Health Sector Trade Unions – which include Siptu, Fórsa, INMO, IMO, and Unite – released a statement tonight criticising the HSE for a lack of “tangible recognition”.

Talks were held at the Workplace Relations Commission today, but HSE representatives made no offer, unions said.

In response, the HSE said that it is expected that the recognition issue will be addressed in the autumn, but that it is a Government decision.

Unions had sought some form of special recognition for healthcare staff as far back as late last year.

Health service employers in France, Northern Ireland, Denmark and elsewhere have offered staff bonuses or pay increases in recognition of their work over the past year.

Last week, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said in Limerick that he “definitely want[s] to see some form of recognition for the extraordinary work that they’ve all put in.”

After the HSE made no offer today, the unions referred the matter to the Labour Court.

In response, the HSE said in a statement to The Journal that it recognises and appreciates “the exceptional efforts of staff over the past 18 months and the resilience and flexibility shown during this very difficult time”.

We have been advised that it is intended to address the recognition issue with regard to frontline workers in the autumn, when it should be a lot clearer where we are with regard to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We are not in a position to pre-empt any Government decision in advance of its consideration.”

Tony Fitzpatrick, chair of the National Joint Council of Health Sector Trade Unions said:

“This is yet another disappointment in the long search for fair recognition. Last week the Minister for Health raised expectations that some tangible recognition was on the way, but today he sent his officials to talks empty handed.

“Healthcare workers have spearheaded the fight against the pandemic. They have worked far beyond their normal responsibilities, with thousands catching the virus in the line of duty.

“Morale in the health service is extremely low.

“There needs to be some hope of genuine reward for frontline staff. Other governments have recognised their healthcare workforce’s contribution meaningfully – yet here we are forced to fight for it.”

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