Fórsa welcomes Covid recognition

Ireland’s largest public service trade union today (Wednesday) welcomed the announcement of an additional and recurring public holiday to recognise workers’ contribution and sacrifice during the pandemic.

Fórsa general secretary Kevin Callinan, who is also the president of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), said unions had argued strongly that an economy-wide acknowledgement of workers’ efforts during the crisis should go beyond a one-off gesture.

“It’s very welcome news that, following a once-off additional public holiday on 18th March 2022, we will see an additional public holiday introduced on a permanent basis. This recognises workers’ contribution and sacrifice over the last two years, and brings Ireland closer to European norms in terms of the number of public holidays in place for workers,” he said.

On the €1,000 tax-free bonus for health staff who worked in “clinical Covid-exposed environments,” Mr Callinan said most people would support this acknowledgement of staff who toiled in very high-risk environments when PPE provision was inadequate and there was no vaccine available.

Health staff took massive risks, and potentially exposed their families to the virus in a truly terrifying time.

“They took massive risks, and potentially exposed their families to the virus in a truly terrifying time. They did it to keep the rest of us safe, and I think most people will welcome today’s acknowledgement of their selflessness and commitment,” he said.

Mr Callinan also noted that the independent body which, last week, recommended that working time be restored to pre-austerity levels for many public servants had also linked its recommendation to workers’ efforts during the pandemic.

The body’s recommendation said: “The truly committed efforts of staff during the last two years in meeting patient, healthcare, population vaccine, security needs and the requirements of delivery for existing and new social welfare and pandemic payment measures has to be acknowledged. The Independent Body has to take into consideration the contemporaneous working environment and the human pressures on those striving to address these challenges on a daily basis and in extremely trying circumstances.”