Warning of ‘bidding war’ over pandemic recognition plans

Warning of ‘bidding war’ over pandemic recognition plans

Social Democrats co-leader Roisin Shortall, speaking outside Leinster House today, said she was concerned about “auction politics” ahead of next month’s Budget. Photo: Gareth Chaney / Collins Photos

The Social Democrats have said that debate about a pandemic recognition for frontline workers is in danger of becoming a “bidding war”.

Social Democrats co-leader Roisin Shortall, speaking outside Leinster House today, said she was concerned about “auction politics” ahead of next month’s Budget.

The Government is discussing a number of options to reward workers on the front line for their efforts during the Covid-19 pandemic.

There has been speculation in recent days about what form recognition for healthcare workers might take, as well as whether this recognition would extend to all frontline workers – not just those in the health service.

There has also been a suggestion that the Government may announce an extra Bank Holiday this year.

“I think this has developed into a bidding war at this stage. And we need to end these auction politics. And I’m really concerned about the build up to the Budget next month,” Ms Shortall told reporters outside Leinster House.

She said that both Fine Gael and Sinn Fein were engaging in “magic money or money tree” politics.

Ms Shortall said that her party agreed with the idea of another Bank Holiday and that it was important to note the sacrifices made during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It is important to recognise the huge effort that’s been made. Certainly, the Government is required to engage in the Labour Court with the trade unions as a result of the decision there last week,” she said.

The Labour Court this month recommended the HSE and the Government engage further with trade unions over pandemic recognition claims.

“There is a need to recognise the enormous efforts of everybody,” Ms Shortall said.

Also speaking on Tuesday, Sinn Fein’s health spokesperson David Cullinane said he welcomed reports that the Government was considering an extra Bank Holiday.

“We had advocated that there would be recognition put in place for all workers, because everybody has sacrificed over the last 18 month”, he said.

“We also support, and have long supported, an additional bank holiday so we’re pleased that the Government has moved in that direction.” “We have a claim that was lodged by three healthcare and trade unions for a mix, as I see it, of additional annual leave days and a recognition payment, and obviously what we would want is the Government to meet those healthcare unions at the negotiation table. That hasn’t happened.” On Monday, Tanaiste Leo Varadkar said he expects any bonus would be paid to Irish citizens before the end of the year, with speculation that a decision could be made on Budget day.

Speaking from Washington on Monday, he said: “I think if there is going to be a pandemic bonus, and I think there should be, it’s likely to fall into this financial year in terms of cost.

Frontline workers outside the health service, such as those in retail and transport, are expected to benefit from the bonus.

Mr Varadkar said it was easier for the Government to provide a bonus to public sector workers than private sector ones, with alternatives being examined.

“It is difficult for Government to pay bonuses to people in the private sector,” he told RTÉ.

“We can do that quite easily for people who are in our employment in the public sector, for the private sector it is more complicated.

“So we’d have to think of other ways of doing that. One idea under consideration, for example, is an additional Bank Holiday.

“Other ideas under consideration for example are things around tax credits.”

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