'One of the upsides for working in pharma was it being largely recession-proof'
Father-of-three Pat Dineen (52) works as a process operator at Janssen in Co Cork, whose products include a schizophrenia drug and anti-viral treatment for HIV patients.
"I'm not surprised that pharmaceutical earnings are at the top of the list given the type of job it is and the responsibility that's there and the regulatory constraints we're under," he said.
"I suppose if I was recommending what third-level qualification to pursue I would say UCC and Cork Institute of Technology for biotechnology and chemistry degrees. Unfortunately, my own kids didn't follow my advice, but I have nieces and nephews who did. One of my nephews says his interest is in the potential earnings. If that's a motivator, then fair enough."
Basic salaries are between €45,000 and €65,000 for new production operatives, before shift allowances and other add-ons. There are allowances for members of the emergency response team, who have a fully kitted fire station because they work with flammable and dangerous substances.
One of the upsides of working for the industry over the last few years was that it was largely recession-proof.
"During the downturn years, all the pharmaceutical companies weren't losing any money and there was an unwritten pact that in return for flexibility and good industrial relations they would pay 2pc every year since 2008, and a little more on occasion. We did feel lucky in that respect, but like a football game, sometimes you have to make your own luck," he said.