Friday, February 20, 2009
I have shied away from this becoming an overtly political blog as the blogosphere is awash with them, and if they are from people with my own (left) leanings, then they are readable and enjoyable as I can empathise with them. I will occasionally write some posts with a polemic approach, if I feel strongly about something (as in this post on African colonialism some weeks back) - though I am not aggressive enough to be a true polemiscist by definition!)
This is a "cat's eye" on the road near Lismore - I like the imagery of the Irish Tricolour being driven over by the cubs of the Celtic Tiger which is now barely miaowing.
What has me exercised at the moment is the state of this nation and the carry on of the bankers and what they are getting away with - they have arrogantly bled the economy during the boom with the encouragement and collusion of the right wing Fianna Fáil government, and now when it all goes pear-shaped we are the ones paying for their excesses.
No-one will be called to account and as long as these high-stakes gamblers of our money stayed marginally within the law, morality and ethics don't seem to matter. Now we are all bankers - or owners of a pretty toxic bank - since Anglo-Irish Bank was nationalised a few weeks back. It isn't something you would be bragging about as it seems every day uncovers a new scandal relating to the wheelings and dealings that went on.
The latest insult to the national intelligence is the decision - unilateral - of the government to levy a hefty increase on the pension contribution of the workers in the public sector, which includes me, and most other nurses and teachers, and all civil servants. The rationale for this levy, designed to raise €2 Billion (euro) is that the public sector workers are guaranteed a fine fat pension on retirement with a guaranteed income based on final salary. Which all sounds fine and dandy, and has set us up as grasping pariahs in the eyes of many in the private sector, but is only half the story.
The government would like us all to be as placid as this cow -we need to know our place!
To qualify for a full retirement pension one has to have accrued 40 years of service, and to have paid contributions throughout. The final pension includes the State Pension (the old Old Age Pension in pre-PC days) and many of those who are at the lower end of the spectrum will never get much more than their State Pension, as their final salary would not be much higher than twice the State Pension. The most you can get is half your final salary, after 40 years, and pro-rata below this. The reality for most public servants is that most will not have 40 years service.
This can be partly explained by the bizarre (by todays' standards) ruling that required women to resign from their civil service jobs on marriage! This "Marriage Bar" was firmly in place until 1973, and shows how the past really is another country! The consequences of this is that many competent and talented women were lost to the public sector in those pre-feminism days, and have never re-entered the workplace at a similar level. Those who did resume work after children were reared rarely resumed similar work, and those who did were penalised by having to buy back missed years through either costly AVCs (Additional Voluntary Contributions) or equally expensive PNS (Purchase of Notional Service) payments.
No public servant has an opt-out option regarding their pension. The new levy which is a pay cut in any language is on a sliding scale based on salary, and is capped at 9.6% for those earning over €300,000. So there is inequity even there - it is easier to miss 9.6% at that earning capacity than to have a levy of 5.8% on €30,000 for a lower-paid worker.
So tomorrow there is a big rally in Dublin to protest at the levy and the inequity of targeting the public sector when the fat cats who were responsible for the economic downturn have got off scotfree. I will be there marching through Dublin city centre to Government Buildings, under the banner of my trade union, the INO - Irish Nurses Organisation - who are protesting along with all the other unions in the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) and probably many who are non-affiliated.
The government is trying hard to drive a wedge between the private sector and the public sector by a divide and rule classic colonial ploy, and the unions are determined not to let this red herring undermine the reality of our anger. The levy is unfair and inequitable by excluding those top-earners in the banks and financial institutions who creamed it during the boom. The public sector is an easy target, and it is to the shame of the policy makers that they disingenuously state that this is the price we have to pay for job security and a guaranteed pension. That this pension can be a pittance for many who through no fault of their own spent many years outside the workforce is conveniently forgotten.
I will have photos from the demonstration for another post - meanwhile please show your support for our actions and if you can - join in the rally and be at Parnell Square at 2p.m. tomorrow, virtually or in person!