Sunday 11 December 2016

Of course there's no money left - public sector unions spent it

Trade unionists demanding higher wages for their members would do well to remember that they helped to create this mess too

Eilis O'Hanlon

Published 02/10/2016 | 02:30

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett Photo: Tom Burke
People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett Photo: Tom Burke

Now is the winter of our discontent. Or at least it promises to be if the threatened wave of public sector strikes goes ahead. The suspension of the Dublin Bus stoppage, pending a ballot on the proposed 11.25pc pay deal, may offer only temporary relief, if, as expected, gardai and nurses and teachers follow their lead by taking industrial action.

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If anything, it may even encourage them to do so, just as the 18pc pay deal for Luas drivers brought forward the stand-off on the buses. Four days in November have already been pencilled in by the Garda Representative Association for possible strikes, despite the obvious risk of alienating public opinion. That they're willing to take the risk arguably shows their desperation at the impossibility of living on the wages of a rank-and-file garda recruit. It doesn't seem unreasonable that new recruits should receive the average industrial wage of €33,000 a year, after all. Not when Police Service of Northern Ireland recruits start on the equivalent of €32,000, and the rent allowance has gone the way of the dodo. Gardai do an often dangerous job. Some pay the ultimate price. That's more than can be said for a junior infants teacher.

Of course, teachers have causes for grievance, too. The differential in pay for new entrants to the profession is undoubtedly problematic; workers should not be paid differently for doing the same work. They'll get their own ballot on industrial action in 10 days' time, and it would be a brave man who would bet against them voting for a walk-out. Nurses likewise.

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