Sunday 11 December 2016

Sacrificing new recruits not the way forward

Published 02/04/2016 | 02:30

Luas workers scored an own goal by not postponing their strike over the Easter period. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Luas workers scored an own goal by not postponing their strike over the Easter period. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

It was the asterisk that alerted me - a minor symbol with major implications. Some years ago, I worked in a fairly demanding job where I was handed a monthly pay slip, with my name and an asterisk alongside it visible through a window in the envelope. After some months, I queried the significance of the tiny star.

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It meant I was paid less for doing the identical job as colleagues who had joined the company before me. This wasn't about seniority in any sense of ability, qualifications or professional experience. Simply, it was a differentiation voted in by union members before my arrival - a two-tier system proposed by the company and accepted by staff as a means of safeguarding their own positions.

The morale issues arising from this artificial workforce division should never be underestimated. I still resent that sell-out long after it continues to have any impact on my life or income. I was reminded of its corrosive legacy this week during the teachers' conferences, when young teachers described being paid lower wages than co-workers, among grievances including contracts of just an hour or two a week.

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