I think most public servants are underpaid.
We all have the chance to work in the private sector, for more money and better conditions. We stayed with the public sector during the boom times, when all kinds of people were earning crazy money in the private sector.
We have had to listen to the private sector telling us we were fools for staying put, for the sake of our patients, when there was big money to be made elsewhere. Now we have to listen to them telling us that we're overpaid and that our perks are too lucrative.
I think, to an extent, the public sector have to suck it up. You take your risks in the private sector. When times are good, you earn big. But when things go bad, they go VERY bad.
I have to say, though, the Irish trade union, SIPTU, have left me speechless recently. This trade union represents various public sector healthcare workers. Mostly nurses and paramedics. Oviously, these two groups do a vital job. A job that most private sector workers wouldn't have touched during the boom years in Ireland. But they stick with it, loking after the most vulnerable memers of society, under very trying conditions.
They don't get a Christmas bonus. There was no free staff night out at Christmas for them. there is no health insurance.
So, now their trade union has asked for a 3.5% pay rise for these workers.
For those of you reading this from overseas, Ireland is in trouble. I mean BIG trouble. Think Iceland-Lite. I know there's a global recession. But Ireland is suffering a global recession, plus a national recession. There's just no money left. I wrote recently about how children's surgical services are being closed down because the piggy bank is empty. Unemployment is skyrocketing, and hundreds of thousands of familes are trying to survive on their weekly 204Euro social welfare payment, in one of the most expensive countries in the world.
The people are fed up. They've seen politicians spend crazy money on lavish expenses, and they've seen the bankers bailed out with huge financial packages, while the self-employed don't even qualify for the dole when their businesses fold.
The dole office is so busy, it's taking 3 months for applications to be processed.
This is not the time to be asking for a pay rise.
Healthcare workers continuously come out top of public opinion trustworthiness polls. There's a good reason for this. Healthcare workers are supposed to care more about the people than about money. I think that still holds true. But I think the trade union are trying to play hardball with the government.
But how can we expect the public to have any respect for us if we're demanding pay rises in the current climate? The cost of everything is going down, so it's difficult to justify on the basis of inflation.
For a nurse on 35k per annum, a 3.5 pay rise works out at about 20 euro per week extra, before tax. That is not worth alienating the public for.
I hope common sense prevails. I hope our nurses and paramedics are rewarded when the economy turns a corner. I, and they, know that won't happen, though.
But, in the run up to a very lean Christmas for most of the country, it's time to put the begging bowl away for now.