SIPTU members meet Minister for Health to demand Covid-19 payment for contract workers

IPTU members Michelle Greer (a contract cleaner) and Ewelina Dziadyk (a contract cleaner) at University Hospital Galway on Friday last.

SIPTU worker representatives met with the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly on Friday Morning to demand that the Covid-19 recognition payment is paid to frontline healthcare workers employed by contract companies.

The Minister met two SIPTU shop stewards employed as contract services healthcare workers, Michelle Greer and Ewelina Dziadyk, during a visit to University Hospital Galway to open a new unit. 

Michelle, who is a contract catering worker at University Hospital Galway, said: “I asked the Minister why have I and my colleagues not yet received the Covid-19 recognition payment. I explained to him that the only difference between me and other workers who have received the payment is that I am a contract services worker, that is someone who works fully within the hospital but is employed by a company contracted to carry out work by the HSE.”

She added: “It was my understanding following the meeting that the Minister believes that we should be eligible for the payment and he directed us to contact the HSE in relation to receiving it.” 

SIPTU Contract Services Sector Organiser, Ed Kenny, said: “Contract cleaning, catering and security healthcare workers worked in clinical settings and were exposed to patients with Covid-19. In the beginning, they had little or no PPE, at a time when there were no vaccines. They later wore masks and gowns as they continued to be exposed to Covid-19 patients on every shift.”

SIPTU Organiser, Mary Mullin, said: “In the height of the pandemic there was no doubt that these contract healthcare workers were on the frontline keeping our healthcare system running during the most trying of emergencies. However, when it now comes to their bravery and commitment to doing their duty being recognised, it would seem that these frontline heroes have become forgotten heroes to the Government and HSE.”

She added: “We are calling on the Government to meet with these workers’ union representatives to discuss the payment of this recognition award prior to Christmas and what is expected to be another extremely trying period for our healthcare system.”

On 6th October, at a meeting of health trade union representatives and officials from the Department of Health, SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Kevin Figgis, asked if the officials could confirm contract workers on the frontline of the health service would be included in the pandemic recognition payment scheme for workers outside of the HSE and Section 38 locations. He gave examples of contract cleaners, catering and security and added that these grades directly employed by the HSE had been paid already. 

The Department officials refused to confirm these workers would be included in the scheme they are developing through a third party. Figgis reminded the officials that this was at variance with the Minister’s public comments earlier this year which confirmed these workers would receive the payment.