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covid 'Thanksgiving' Bank holiday set for November as farm leader says his members also took on great risk

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President of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association, Pat McCormack

President of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association, Pat McCormack

Pat McCormack, president of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association, has called for recognition of farmers, and those in food-based roles, in the Budget. Photo: Liam Burke/Press 22

Pat McCormack, president of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association, has called for recognition of farmers, and those in food-based roles, in the Budget. Photo: Liam Burke/Press 22

The three teacher unions, ASTI, INTO and TUI, insist they are not seeking a pandemic payment. Stock image

The three teacher unions, ASTI, INTO and TUI, insist they are not seeking a pandemic payment. Stock image

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President of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association, Pat McCormack

A special bank holiday next month is largely agreed as a “Thanksgiving” for the efforts of frontline workers and to honour lost lives.

The holiday is expected to be announced on Budget Day, while talks continue with unions and employers on other forms of recognition.

However, the Coalition is backing off an urgent decision on a bonus payment for frontline workers.

Unnerved by a backlash over the pandemic bonus, the Government is assigning it to a group known as a LEEF (Labour Employer Economic Forum).

The options on the table are still a cash payment in wages or a tax-free voucher.

It comes as the first public broadside was launched against a pandemic bonus for stay-at-home workers by a farm leader who said his members took on great responsibility and risk.

The president of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) said the self-employed and people working in the private sector are looking on with “bemusement” at desk-bound public servants seeking reward for their efforts in the Covid crisis.

“State employees who sat at home from day one of the pandemic are now loudly proclaiming their sacrifices,” Pat McCormack said.

There is a “jostle in the ever-lengthening queue for the state-sector Covid bonus payment”, he added.

He said that while no one doubted the efforts made by frontline medical staff and healthcare workers, other people had not done anything like the same extent.

“It is somewhat curious and galling to see other groups of state employees – who worked through Zoom or from their kitchen table – now stridently putting themselves forward for a bonus,” he said.

The ICMSA president said that among the most important people in Ireland for 18 months of the pandemic were food workers.

Those on the “food line” – including farmers – were the people who had worked in the supply chain to ensure the availability of “quality fresh food every hour of every day”.

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Nurses, meanwhile, have been joined in their claim for a bonus payment by gardaí. However, the three teacher unions insist they are not seeking a pandemic payment.

The INTO said it was not seeking any such personal financial reward. The ASTI also confirmed that it had not been asking for a bonus.
It follows confirmation from the TUI that it was not claiming a pandemic payment or any other bonus.

An INTO spokesperson said: “We are not asking for a pandemic payment, nor was that our position this week.”

It had “long called for healthcare workers and other essential workers to be acknowledged for their critical role during the darkest of days, and that’s what we will support at any discussions on this issue”.

It said that while “teachers’ extraordinary efforts should be acknowledged”, the pandemic bonus they wanted was “much-needed investment in primary and special schools”.

The INTO statement called for “reducing our super-sized classes, supporting our school leaders, funding schools and guaranteeing access to a qualified teacher for every pupil”.

The ASTI referred to the suggestion from Tánaiste Leo Varadkar that workers across the public and private sector should be recognised for their efforts, “and it was in that context that we stated earlier this week that teachers’ extraordinary efforts should be acknowledged”.

“Of course, we insist that we wouldn’t be excluded from any such discussions. However, at no point did we reference a ‘pandemic bonus payment’.”

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