Health unions slam HSE’s “empty handed” approach to healthcare worker COVID compensation

ealth service unions have strongly criticised the HSE for a lack of “tangible recognition” for healthcare workers’ role in the fight against COVID.

Talks were held at the Workplace Relations Commission today (Thursday), but HSE representatives had no offer to make. 

This was despite comments by Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly last week in Limerick, where he said that he “definitely want[s] to see some form of recognition for the extraordinary work that they've all put in.”

Unions had sought some form of special recognition for healthcare staff, dating back to late 2020. Both the Taoiseach and Tánaiste have previously indicated that they would support some recognition.

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

The unions have referred the matter to the Labour Court.

Tony Fitzpatrick, chair of the National Joint Council of Health Sector Trade Unions (SIPTU, FORSA, INMO, IMO, Unite, Connect, MLSA and Craft 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.

“The health unions have collectively decided to refer the matter to the Labour Court.”


Notes to Editors:
Minister Stephen Donnelly’s comments on recognition last week are here (13 min 50 seconds in): 

Asked if healthcare workers should be recognised with “a financial bonus”, he said:

“I want to see something done. Yeah, absolutely, I really do. I think our healthcare teams have just been incredible. We're still fighting the fight at the moment, but I definitely want to see some form of recognition for the extraordinary work that they've all put in.”

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