About time public servants were made to face reality
HUSH. QUIET. Silence for a second, please. Now...do you hear it? The sound of momentous change? Yes - it’s the sound of public servants finally realising they’re not immune to measures to tackle the recession, as the pensions levy means they’ve been brought hurtling into the reality that the rest of us have already been facing in recent months.
The poor put-upon souls have been mourning the fact that they’ll drop somewhere between five and ten per cent of their salary when it’s introduced, but coming after a year when 120,000 people joined the dole queues and a month where there was an average of over 1,000 jobs losses per day, it’s hard to have much sympathy for anyone who still has a guaranteed salary of 90 to 95 per cent of what they’ve been used to. That’s on top of all the other perks that most of them - the civil servants in the various government departments - are entitled to: flexi-time, a ‘term time’ provision that allows them to take two months off at a time, and even a ‘shopping day’ at Christmas.
Predictably though, most of the outcry has glossed over the comfy lot of those pen-pushers and keyboard-tappers, and focussed on the apparently sacred triumvirate of nurses, gardaí and teachers, as though they should be completely cossetted from the starkness of what we’re facing because of the ‘toughness’ of their jobs.
The nurses play this card more than anyone, and all right, not many of us would fancy a role where a lot of time is spent cleaning up blood and puke and changing old folk’s nappies. But remember they knew as they started their training that this was what lay in store - and remember too that they’ll still have a job to go in six months or a year’s time.
There’s no such security though for the person who does the mopping up in the pub or nightclub toilet instead, or in the supermarket aisles when somebody knocks over and breaks a jar of sauce. They have a tough job too, and also have mortgages or rent to pay and children to feed and clothe, but they could be signing on next week. A secure job with 95 per cent of a nurse’s current salary must seem like a sweet deal to many of them, and the nurses would do well to remember that.
Similarly with the teachers, most notorious of all during the boom years for claiming they were worth more money, as apparently they put in the groundwork that the Celtic Tiger was built upon. Well, they can’t have it both ways - so by their very own rationale, they must almost be responsible for the state we now find ourselves in. Perhaps they’d like to think about that in the week off that’s coming up for mid-term, or the two weeks they’ll have off at Easter, or even the two to three months they’ll have in the summer.
They all, like the rest of us, have to realise that every belt in the country must be tightened over the next few years - and like the rest of us who still have jobs, they have to be thankful for that too and even more so as they’re much more secure.
Brian Cowen predicted last week that there could be 400,000 people on the dole by the end of the year - but there’s hardly one of them currently making a living as a nurse or a garda or a civil servant. A levy on a Stateguaranteed defined benefit pension is a small price to pay for that sort of security.
‘Oooh, isn’t it terrible how we had to pay towards our pension when we had jobs to go to while others were losing theirs?’