Frontline workers: Retail workers and other frontline staff could be in line for bonus payments or time off as a reward for Covid-19 work

FRONTLINE workers, including those in the retail sector, could be in line for payments or time off work as a reward for working during the Covid-19 pandemic, the Taoiseach has said.

r Martin said the Government wants to reflect the contribution that many people have made during the pandemic, including those in sectors like retail, in the forthcoming Budget.

Speaking in New York, where he earlier chaired a meeting of the UN Security Council, Mr Martin said that the Public Expenditure Minister Michael McGrath has been engaging with trade unions on the issue.

“We want to reflect the contribution that people have made during Covid-19, particularly frontline workers and those frontline workers have been in many sectors, not least in retail, for example, right from the beginning and commencement of the pandemic and it will be challenging, but that is something that we are working towards energetically and proactively,” Mr Martin told Irish journalists.

Mr Martin said he was not going to get into specifics in advance of the Budget but said that there would be further engagement with the sectors and it “could be a combination of approaches”, adding that this would involve a “combination of measures relating to monetary or relating to time in lieu and so on like that”.

The Taoiseach said that the Government wants to be “inclusive” in its approach and said that with proper engagement there can be a “generous resolution”. He added that there would “some limits at some point” but there are “ways and means of capturing the contribution that different sectors made during the pandemic”.

“The last 12 months the healthcare system has recruited 6,000 extra personnel across nursing and medical and other disciplines, so we are attracting more and more people into our health service,” Mr Martin said.

“It did prove to be very resilient, and we owe a great debt of gratitude to our front-line workers in the health service throughout the pandemic. But we want to get this right and be inclusive. It will be about action and not words.”

Asked how such measures could be funded given estimates that over €1bn would be required to pay for ten days of annual leave across the public service, Mr Martin said: “The response to the pandemic is a once off response in terms of the response that will ensue.

“We know the parameters of the budget in terms of expenditures – about €1bn, tax measures – about €500m. The specifics of that have to be worked out. The real detailed announcements will be on Budget day.”

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