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'I'd have more money and less stress working in Aldi': Our new generation of frontline staff have had enough

We spoke to a garda, a nurse and a teacher who are just a couple of years into their careers – and already disenfranchised.
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IN RECENT WEEKS we have seen protests by groups of gardaí and teachers over their pay, with unions and representative organisations saying their newest recruits are underpaid and undervalued in their jobs.

Some among this new generation of public servants are earning less than the living wage.

New frontline workers who spoke to TheJournal.ie this week said they are already feeling burned out and disillusioned in careers they only embarked upon a couple of years ago.

The Garda

Mick drives 115km each way, to and from work, which he said takes around three hours in total on top of his ten hour shift. He is married with young children and at the time he was placed in his probationary station, his wife had a permanent position in her job and they were already paying a mortgage on a house.

Source: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

“We have a sort of a structure there with the kids, we couldn’t afford to not be based there continually because her parents and my parents are there for childcare. We couldn’t afford to move where we don’t know anybody and pay for a creche five days a week.”

The weekly commute costs Mick roughly €120 per week, from a take home pay of just under €300 a week.

“Half of that goes into a joint bank account to pay for house bills, the creche for the kids, heating, shopping, stuff like that. I’m left with around €140 and after I pay for the diesel I have €20 to pay my own phone bill, road tax and other things. I’m continuously taking out more loans to stay above water,” he told TheJournal.ie.

When I joined Templemore initially, I was completely debt-free and now I’m in a fair bit of debt with no options. My bank account has been overdrawn since I left Templemore, it has never not been [since].

Mick is due to get an increment in his pay this year, but because of the implementation of the emergency financial legislation, known as Fempi, this is now unlikely.

Members of the GRA's central executive committee protesting outside the Dáil. Source: Leah Farrell/PA

Members of the Garda Representative Union (GRA) have rejected the newest public pay deal, the Lansdowne Road Agreement, and once that came into effect last week, any groups who were not signed up to it were no longer protected from Fempi.

For Mick, it means he will lose out on around €35 a week, which he said would have made a big difference to his weekly budget.

It’s a massive amount if you have nothing.

“It’s causing a massive strain on me personally and then trying to do 13 hours a day, juggling family life and incurring more and more debt. All that on top of the massive workload in the station itself. And I’m doing the same job as every other guard,” he said.

€23,000 a year – I was making more than that 14 years ago. If I wanted to get a job in Aldi or Tesco I’d get more money and I’d be dealing with less stress. We’re dealing with violent situations, the sights you would see at some incidents, sudden deaths, suicides, stuff line that. And the government is happy to pay us this money for all that.

Source: Eamonn Farrell/PA

Mick said he and his classmates in Templemore had been “full of confidence” when they left and headed for their probationary stations.

“Now we are in the same position, the way we feel about the job is the same as people who were in it for years.”

The Nurse

Kate Finnamore is a nurse and mother-of-one based in Donegal. She earns just short of €500 a week for the 34 hours she works.

“I’m renting and billswise we’re alright, but my partner would have a bigger share of the bills because he’s on a better income than me.”

She said when she first started training as a nurse, she thought she would be “in a better place” than she is now, once she started working in the field.

“I would be disheartened. I have a car loan and other bills like health insurance. After you take all those expenses, there’s not a whole lot to play around with.

There are colleagues of mine who live at home and they have more disposable income for nicer cars or holidays. We really have to budget like.”

Source: Photocall Ireland

Finnamore described her job as “very challenging” and said she often works later than her shift in the evenings to keep on top of things.

Then you’re racing down the road to try to get back to family life in the evenings. You miss an awful lot.

Though she said she feels like senior staff and managers appreciate the work she does, she does not think those running the country give graduate nurses the credit – or the pay – they deserve.

“I don’t feel rewarded when I come home in the evenings. My partner really enjoys his job so he feels fulfilled, he gets good pay, expenses. I don’t feel like I’m getting adequate remuneration for the job I do.”

It is disheartening.

Source: Shutterstock

Many of the nurses Finnamore studied with have already gone abroad and she said a lot of other nurses she knows are making plans to move elsewhere.

“There are people in places like Canada and London and they have all these exciting opportunities – why would they come back.

When they look at the conditions of their friends back home, there is no enticement for these people to come back.”

The teacher

Jason Poole is 28 and works as a teacher at a secondary school in Finglas. He still lives at home with his parents as he can not afford to rent in Dublin.

He earns around €400 a week and he told TheJournal.ie he is “living from paycheck to paycheck with nothing left at the end of the month”.

In order to pay his college fees and for his post-primary teaching qualification, Poole had to take out loans totalling €25,000 which he is now paying back.

“After I’ve paid that and paid to keep the car on the road, I can’t afford anything. It’s very hard to even go on the odd night out with friends.”

Source: Sam Boal

The young teacher counts himself as one of the lucky ones as the principal in his school ensured he got a permanent contract after two years.

“It’s very hard to even get that, most of my friends in schools are only doing six, eight, twelve hours maximum. Some are getting four to six hours for a few weeks and then they have to move to another school altogether. I find it tough, but I can only imagine how they feel.”

The way the rate of pay is for us compared to people we sit in the staff room with, I’m already €100,000 worse off in my career. That could be money off a house, that’s horrific.

Poole feels disheartened, he told us, that the government is enforcing the financial emergency legislation, which also puts a halt to salary increments for secondary school teachers.

“We’re told we’re in recovery and doing great, but they’re still using emergency legislation that was for recessionary times.”

Source: Shutterstock

He does not believe the government appreciates the work he does with his students every day.

I’m in work from 7.30 for breakfast club, which is voluntary, and I stay for after school study and clubs. I don’t leave until 5.30 every day.

“We’ve been bullied for long enough, we’ve sat down for long enough and it’s had a huge impact on us – that can’t continue.”

This article was originally published on 10 July 2016

Read: Secondary school teachers protest outside the Dail in dispute over pay>

Read: Teachers and gardaí face pay freezes as Lansdowne Road agreement comes into effect>

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Michelle Hennessy

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