'We're no snowflakes': Poor pay is the issue, not long hours or hard work, claim vet graduates

110 vets posts remain vacant nationwide
110 vets posts remain vacant nationwide

Claire Mc Cormack

Young vets are on a collision course with Veterinary Ireland over starting salaries and conditions for recent graduates.

The Progressive Veterinary Network (PVN), an organisation representing 200 new and recent veterinary graduates, claims that "poor pay" has become a major barrier to employment.

Deirdre Ní Dhonnchú of PVN said: "The feedback we're getting is that there is a lot of annoyance and irritation among young vets who feel they are being portrayed as a 'snowflake generation' of vets that don't want to work or take up hard jobs in mixed practice.

"That is not the case, the conditions and salary are the two biggest things. The main employers are not willing to pay to get new vets into positions and to keep them in those positions long term so they are going to England and other places," she said.

Ms Ní Dhonnchú highlighted that anecdotal evidence from an on-going PVN nationwide survey on salaries suggests that large numbers of newly qualified vets are "starting out on flat-rate salaries ranging from €25,000 to €35,000" for a minimum 60 hours per week, but she claims this often stretches to 70 or 80 hours.

"You might be up five times during the night and still work as normal the next day with no extra pay or overtime or day off.

"Very few practices will give you a day off because if there are only two or three in a practice, they will say they can't afford to give you a day off," she said.

"The money isn't going up and the conditions aren't improving and that is what frustrates people," she said,

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However, Veterinary Ireland dispute the salary feedback in the PVN survey which includes the views of 300 vets.

"Anyone advertising a position for €25-€35k will never get it filled," said spokesman Conor Geraghty.

€65,000 package

"I'm filling a position at the moment with a package of €65,000 for a recent graduate so that figure is incorrect.

"If you have 30-40 applicants per job, employers in small animal practices can get away with paying less. But in large animal practices, the basic salary I hear around the place would be packages in excess of €50,000 for a new graduate.

"The problem isn't salary, it's rota and time off - that has been made very clear to me," he said adding that he is willing to discuss the issue with PVN.

Earlier this month the Farming Independent revealed that there are currently 110 unfilled posts for vets in large animal practices in Connacht, Munster and south Leinster.

Mr Geraghty said the emerging labour problem is down to unattractive rota systems, limited vet numbers at large animal practices and issues regarding work/life balance.

He said Irish vets are being enticed by larger practices in the UK with up to 15 vets, compared to working in a two or three vet practice in Ireland.

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