Health workers deserve 'special recognition' for 'running on fumes' during pandemic

Health workers deserve 'special recognition' for 'running on fumes' during pandemic

The director of the INMO said hHealthcare workers were still “running on fumes” due to the intensity and traumatic nature of their work during the pandemic. Picture: Sasko Lazarov /

The director of industrial relations with the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has said that healthcare workers deserve “special recognition” for their efforts during the pandemic, as had happened in other jurisdictions.

Healthcare workers were still “running on fumes” due to the intensity and traumatic nature of their work during the pandemic, Tony Fitzpatrick told Newstalk Breakfast.

We’ve tried to engage with the HSE since last November - they’ve been dilly-dallying. 

Unions representing healthcare workers were “absolutely fine” if the Government wanted to introduce a measure such as an extra bank holiday which would benefit everyone, but healthcare workers had to be “looked after,” he said.

“All along we’ve said they need to be recognised. If the Government is planning something for everyone, they need to be conscious that for healthcare workers there’s a live claim. We were in the WRC on two occasions, and the employer said ‘we’re going to work out the figures.'

“The next day they came back and said ‘we can’t do anything, this is a Government decision.' The Labour Court has clearly told them now they need to get into the room with the trade unions,” he added.

On RTÉ radio’s Today with Claire Byrne show, Eamon Donnelly of the Forsa trade union’s health and welfare division said they were not seeking 10 days' leave for healthcare workers in recognition of their contributions during the pandemic and he called for flexibility to allow staff take time off from work.

The HSE was the employer and therefore they were the people with whom negotiations should be held, he said. 

Mr Donnelly added that there were ways to look at the workforce co-operating on leave which would come at a different cost to the “book value” being quoted by the Government.

Public Expenditure Minister Michael McGrath has said granting the leave by way of a Covid-19 recognition bonus to all public sector workers could cost in excess of €1bn.

Mr McGrath said that when overtime and agency staff costs are factored in, the cost would be in excess of €500m and to adopt that payment for all 300,000 public sector workers would hit the taxpayer with a cost of in excess of €1bn. 

Mr McGrath did say the government acknowledges the contribution of frontline workers and is committed to recognising their efforts.

However, he said we must consider the whole of society and called on private companies to reward their workers who he said “looked after us” in the darkest days of the pandemic.

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