In January this year the authorities announced that £500 would be paid to all health and social care workers including doctors, nurses, care home workers, domiciliary care workers, administrative staff and estates teams in recognition of their outstanding work during the Covid pandemic.
The authorities said thanking the staff was not enough and added: “There are no words to properly convey what they have done for us — we will never be able to repay that debt,”
They are certainly right about that for the promised bonus has been well below the stated figure for some part time workers.
The authorities, while admitting that they would be asking the Finance and Communities ministers to ensure that the payment would be exempt from tax and would not affect the recipients’ benefit payments, gave the strong impression that everyone would pocket the full £500. But they were honeyed words. Some workers have ended up with a mere £90 extra in their pay packets, a shameful return given what they have been through.
Remember all these care staff worked throughout the pandemic. At the beginning all anyone knew was that it was a potentially lethal virus without any known cure.
At that stage staff had no PPE or else it was inadequate in many instances.
As angry union representatives have pointed out staff had to keep as distant as possible from their families until sufficient information emerged on how to avoid contamination.
Their sacrifice was enormous and their reward is pitiful and it took seven months to deliver the derisory payments..
But then what else should we expect?
Remember nurses had to go on strike for the first time in 100 years to gain equality with their colleagues in other regions of the UK.
They had fallen behind in salaries because successive health ministers at Stormont had pegged salaries.
It is little wonder that the public has such little faith in politicians — the men and women who got paid during the three years they absented themselves from Stormont.
This payment to staff makes a mockery of the clap for carers campaign which ran for several weeks during the height of the pandemic.
The authorities, who had gained deserved praise for his handling of the pandemic, have made a blunder on this occasion.
They can restore his reputation by ensuring that the full amount is made up and included in next month’s pay packets.
We cannot short-change our NHS heroes.