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(en) Ireland, Workers Solidarity #82 - Surviving on the Minimum Wage in Dublin

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Sun, 19 Sep 2004 09:41:08 +0200 (CEST)

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The amount of money you earn is one of the most important factors
that influence your quality of life. Surviving in Dublin on minimum
wage is not something you want to be doing for longer than you have
to. As someone who has been earning minimum wage for the last few
years, I think of the cost of many items in terms of hours at work
rather than in Euros. e.g. As a music fan, I enjoy going to gigs but
with a concert ticket priced at E30, I have to consider whether the
satisfaction I'd gain from attending the gig is worth the four and a half
hours in work.

Rent, my single biggest expense, is E100 a week for a reasonable
sized room in a reasonably priced part of Dublin. So, I have to work at
least 16 hours a week just to have a roof over my head. After paying
ESB, gas and phone bill and buying food to meet the basic necessities
of life, there isn't much left over for any of life's little luxuries.

Health-care is a more serious issue. The potential implication for
your health is probably the worst aspect of surviving on a low wage.
I'm lucky that I'm in good health as otherwise I could be in serious
trouble. Earning minimum wage, you're not entitled to a medical card
and you have to pay the equivalent of 6 hours work for one trip to the
doctor. With a better paying job, getting health insurance would be
the first change that I'd make in my life.

I'm also in no position to have a family. There's no way that I could
afford to pay all the expenses that go with bringing up children on the
wage that I earn. Having the security that comes from buying a house
is completely beyond my reach.

Even though I work roughly 40 hours a week, the work is comprised
of shifts which vary from week to week and my employers classify me
as a part-time worker. This allows them to arbitrarily cut the hours of
'troublesome' workers. For example, if you were to demand holiday
pay, sick pay or other basic benefits that employees are entitled to,
you might find that your shifts suddenly dry up. This phenomenon
seems to be quite widespread in the low-wage retail sector. Working
conditions are also uncomfortable as my bosses are unwilling to
spend any money on improving things which don't affect them or
their profits.

The turnover of staff in minimum-wage jobs is very high and there
are many non-nationals working in such jobs. Many of them are
happy to be getting such high wages relative to what they could be
earning at home but many of them are also just as conscious of the
same issues as I am. I've noticed that it's often Europeans or those
who have been living in Ireland for longer who are more aware that
they are being exploited. They are aware that sick and holiday pay are
basic entitlements and at the end of the day, they too have to deal
with the same high rents and cost of living in Dublin.

The nature of my job means that there is only one employee working
at any one time and there is little opportunity to form a good
relationship with fellow workers aside from chatting when shifts
change and one employee replaces another. Without the opportunity
to develop good working relationships with co-workers, there is little
possibility of us organising to change things and get better pay,
respect or working conditions.

A sense of solidarity and long-term commitment is needed for any
serious move to change things for the better. Most of us (including
myself) see the job as a step towards getting a better job. The problem
is that some of us end up getting a new job which is merely different -
but not better - and that those who replace us in the old job still have
to deal with the problems of surviving on a minimum wage.

by Anthony

see also

* Workplace struggles and the unions
This page is from the print version of the Irish
Anarchist paper 'Workers Solidarity'.
We also provide PDF files of all our publications
http://www.struggle.ws/wsm/pdf.html for you
to print out and distribute locally
Print out the PDF file of this issue

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