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Offended Healthcare workers' 'incredible commitment and courage' forgotten, union representatives claim

The INMO had called for an extra 10 days' annual leave for workers as an acknowledgment of the strain they’ve been under in recent months

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A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine (Arnulfo Franco/AP)

A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine (Arnulfo Franco/AP)

A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine (Arnulfo Franco/AP)

The “incredible commitment and courage” of healthcare workers who battled on the frontline of the pandemic has been forgotten, union representatives have said. 

They say that attempts to recognise their efforts throughout the crisis have been thwarted by officials who say they are not in a position to negotiate.

The INMO had called for an extra 10 days' annual leave for workers as an acknowledgment of the strain they’ve been under in recent months.

But following a meeting at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) on Tuesday, Tony Fitzpatrick, chair of the National Joint Council of Health Sector Trade Unions, told Newstalk Breakfast officials have said they are not in a position to negotiate.

"The reason why we're deeply offended is this claim has been lodged since last November, we know what healthcare workers have done in the response to the pandemic.

"They established services that didn't exist overnight, like testing and tracing, they set up additional ICU capacity.

"They've shown incredible commitment and courage - and indeed in excess of 28,000 of them have been infected with COVID-19.

"What has happened in other jurisdictions - and even in this island, in Northern Ireland back in October - the assembly recognised healthcare workers in Northern Ireland.

"They've done it in Scotland and Wales and elsewhere, where they give them a financial contribution which was stg£500 net in recognition of their contribution".

Mr Fitzpatrick says they are looking for an either extra pay or extra leave.

"The Taoiseach and the Tánaiste have come out and said, ‘we will recognise healthcare workers'.

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"But nine months later, we were in the WRC yesterday, and the Department of Health and the HSE officials that were there said 'We've no mandate to negotiate with regards to a recognition of healthcare workers'.

"The way in which to recognise these staff is either financially or with time off.

"We have many staff that are out there presently, about to face into their fourth wave, that are exhausted.

"So, the best way to recognise them is a financial payment or time off."

Asked about salary comparisons between other countries, which gave a bonus to nurses, he says: "I don't accept that nurses are well paid in Ireland.

"There's a lot of other factors there - the cost of living in those various countries as well - so all of that needs to be factored in.

"In Scotland they're relatively paid the same, and they've made a payment in that location as well: so, it's not sugar on top, this is extraordinary what healthcare workers did".

He adds that any bonus should be applied across the health service.

"What we're saying here is healthcare workers - whether it's nurses, doctors, porters - whoever it was, they stepped up to the mark last year.

"And I think it's recognised by the politicians, and indeed by the health service, they will say to us that we need to recognise these healthcare workers'.

"So, there's no dispute over the fact that they need to be recognised... and it seems that eaten bread is soon forgotten.

"We have politicians saying, 'Yeah you deserve it, you deserve a clap on the back... but we want to see something tangible".

The WRC will reconvene a meeting on this issue on August 5.

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