Union fury over £500 pandemic NHS thank you payments to highly paid Scottish staff

Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced in November 2020 that all health and social care staff would receive a £500 appreciation payment in recognition of their “extraordinary” work during the pandemic.

A GMB freedom of information request found that 5,890 of the total 38,609 recipients employed by local authorities (15.3 per cent) had salary levels in excess of £40,000.

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GMB organizer Keir Greenaway described the top earners’ pay as “a bonus for well-paid staff who were not on the front lines of the pandemic response.”

NHS staff received thank you payments under a Scottish Government decision. Image: Michael Gillen.

The payment, on which workers had to pay taxes, was offered to all directly employed NHS Scotland staff, including those who helped with the coronavirus response for at least one month between March 17 and November 30. 2020, as well as social care staff. employed by local authorities.

The breakdown of payments obtained by GMB found that 15 per cent of payments went to council staff of £40,000 or more, including 67 payments to top managers, department heads and directors with CEO grades.

Greenaway, a senior GMB organizer, said: “Our members are furious.

“These payments were meant to be recognition for those who risked their lives during the pandemic.

“Instead, millions of pounds of public money have been used to give a bonus to well-paid staff who were not on the front lines of the pandemic response.

“We had senior managers, often working from home, receiving thank you payments while our members were out risking it all, struggling with poor or no PPE to keep the country moving.

“It is time for the Scottish Government to fund the key workers they seem to have forgotten about – rubbish collectors, cleaners, school staff – instead of money that feathers the nests of the top brass.”

Of the 28 of the 32 councils that responded to the FOI, Perth and Kinross had the highest proportion of appreciation payments awarded to staff potentially earning more than £40,000, with 26.7 per cent of eligible workers receiving the bonus.

They were followed by Clackmannanshire (26%), East Renfrewshire (25.4%), Angus (24.8%), South Lanarkshire (22.9%) and West Lothian (22.8%).

A spokesman for Cosla, the local authority umbrella group, said: “The local councils were simply the delivery vehicle for this.

“It was a Scottish government policy for which they were solely responsible.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The £500 thank you payment went to NHS and adult social care staff, and nearly 400,000 people were eligible.

“We are hugely appreciative of the efforts of many key workers in different sectors across Scotland as they rose to the challenge of responding to the pandemic.

“The payment was made to NHS and social care staff in recognition of their efforts on the front lines during the pandemic.”


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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