The National Joint Council of ICTU Healthcare Unions have called on the Minister for Health to extend the COVID Special Leave with Pay scheme.
This comes as the COVID Special Leave with Pay Scheme for healthcare workers is due to end on June 30th.
The Health Service Executive failed to attend a hearing of the Workplace Relations Commission to discuss the issue of Special Leave with Pay on June 27th.
Chairperson of the National Joint Council of HSE Staff Trade Unions, Tony Fitzpatrick said:
“Despite public assurances from the Minister for Health at the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation Conference that no healthcare worker would face a financial cliff edge on July 1st, healthcare workers who are currently in receipt of Special Leave with Pay are receiving letters from their employer informing them that their special leave with pay will cease on July 1st. This is a shocking and wholly disappointing move from Government.
“These health care workers attended work to care for patients, at a time when other workers, public and private were being told to stay at home. Healthcare workers were classified as essential for attendance at work. The number of public healthcare workers on this scheme make up .2% of the entire healthcare workforce. These workers must have financial and professional stability as promised by the Minister.
“It is unacceptable to us as a group of unions representing healthcare workers that the Special Leave with Pay scheme will now cease, and these workers will face a financial cliff edge. This is the opposite of what the Minister for Health promised wouldn’t happen. It is infuriating and extremely disappointing that the Minister has not followed through on his commitment and ensured that the Department of Health and the HSE engage with the unions in relation to this matter. The WRC offered to facilitate talks yesterday but the HSE refused to attend.
“Healthcare workers who are now suffering varied and, in some instances, challenging medium and long-term effects of Long COVID should not be penalised for not being able to return to work. These are workers who went to work every day, in some instances without proper PPE or without a vaccine available to them. They will now be penalised by their employer because of an illness they picked up in the workplace. This is not right or acceptable.
“It is now necessary that the HSE and the Department of Health attend the WRC to ensure a resolution can be achieved on this matter. Healthcare unions have also highlighted the need for a special scheme for healthcare workers suffering with Covid 19 or Long Covid. It is not appropriate that healthcare workers would have to use their normal sick leave entitlement considering that the European Union has recognised that Covid 19 and Long Covid is an occupational disease. Therefore, it is necessary that an appropriate scheme is put into place immediately to protect healthcare workers
“Healthcare workers who find themselves still suffering from Long COVID, should be protected from financial loss due to an injury sustained at work. These workers stepped up when the State needed them, the State should step up and continue to protect these workers.”
The National Joint Council of HSE Staff Trade Unions comprises of ICTU affiliated members, Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, SIPTU, FÓRSA, Irish Medical Organisation, Medical Laboratory Scientists Association, CONNECT Trade Union, Voluntary Hospitals Craft Group, UNITE