Health unions have referred their bid to get health workers a Covid bonus to the Labour Court and criticised the HSE's lack of "tangible recognition" of their members' role in fighting the pandemic.
At the Workplace Relations Commission, talks between the HSE and members of the National Joint Council of Health Sector Trade Unions ended without agreement. The union said it was told by the HSE that it does not have the mandate to issue a bonus.
The unions, including Siptu, Fórsa, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, the Irish Medical Organisation and Unite have now referred the matter to the Labour Court.
In a joint statement, they attacked the HSE’s “empty-handed” approach to healthcare-worker Covid compensation and accused it of lacking a “tangible recognition” for health workers’ role in the fight against the pandemic.
Speaking in Limerick recently, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said he wants to “absolutely” see health workers' contributions recognised.
"I think our healthcare teams have just been incredible," he said. "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.”
Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar have previously indicated they would also support some form of special recognition for healthcare staff, something unions have been seeking since late 2020.
The unions point out that 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.
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."
He added: “Morale in the health service is extremely low. There needs to be some hope of genuine reward for frontline staff."
In a statement, the HSE said: "The HSE recognise and appreciate the exceptional efforts of staff over the past 18 months and the resilience and the 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."