Frontline workers being hung out to dry

Ireland’s frontline workers are being hung out to dry by this Government. Members of An Garda Siochana, nurses, firefighters, ambulance personnel, and prison officers cannot and should not be targeted again for pay cuts, dressed up in any guise.

These are the men and women who protect society, the first responders to car crashes and fires, they deal with the drunk and deranged on a nightly basis and enter their chosen professions knowing that there is a real risk to their own safety.

But because they chose these careers does not mean that it is acceptable to continue to take from them their hard earned wages, even when these cuts are dressed up as reductions in overtime and anti-social pay. Overtime and anti-social hours are part and parcel of being a frontline worker and while a person enters these professions knowing the unsocial element of the job, it does not mean that they don’t deserve to be awarded financially for the out of hours service they provide.

Frontline workers have increased costs, particularly childcare cover outside of the normal working hours. But there are other costs too. In the case of gardaí many are stationed outside their local towns meaning they must travel long distances to and from work, on a poor road network, often during the dark hours of the night and in too many cases after having to deal with emotionally draining incidents such as fatal car crashes, stabbings, or murders. They are not compensated for the wear and tear to their cars or for the cost of fuel, and now any member of the force who has served for over five years is being threatened with an €830.14 cut to allowances during a 10-week roster. For many this would be the bulk of their mortgage repayments, meaning that they could be the dire position of losing their homes. Similar circumstances exist for other frontline workers. That’s how serious the situation is.

Therefore any attempt to further reduce their incomes by attacking the pay they receive for working unsocial hours and providing essential services around the clock will result in a collective campaign to protect their existing terms and conditions, the same terms and conditions which have already been attacked by this Government. These professions deserve the public’s support in their plight to save their pay.

In the Government’s effort to crawl out of this economic catastrophe they must be careful not to destroy the traditional professions which have always been the backbone of this country.

It is quickly getting to a stage where there is no incentive for someone to become a garda, a nurse, or even a teacher. Recent graduates in some of these areas have no option but to take the emigrants’ plane out of here.

Workers being paid below the average industrial wage must also be protected from cuts.

It is an issue that could push this Government from power and now would not be a suitable time for either Fine Gael or Labour to hit the polling booths given what the recent polls have suggested.

It is when continued cuts to Child Benefit and Family Income Support and overtime payments push families into the working poor bracket that we have to take a step back and reassess the direction we are heading in.

The 24/7 Frontline Services Alliance, made up of unions and organisations representing gardaí, nurses, midwives, prison officers, and other health service frontline staff, have come together again to unite in a campaign to defend their members from any further pay cuts and if their cries are not heard it will be the ordinary Joe Soap who will be affected once again. That said, they are entitled to their campaign and deserve our backing.

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