‘I had to skip my rent to buy my children Christmas presents’

THERE was a reluctant acceptance among many public service workers picketing in Cork that their income is going to drop again after the budget – but they remain adamant in their desire to see the pain shared by those in the high-income brackets.

Despite endless rain and strong winds, colleges, schools and public service offices were picketed by union members angry at what they perceived as a lack of leadership from Government in finding alternative ways to save money.

Outside the Revenue Commissioners offices in Blackpool, IMPACT member and divorced father-of-two Mark Mulhall suggested taking money back from the banks as an alternative to major public service pay cuts, expressing anger about the €500,000 salary AIB’s new managing director, Colm Doherty, has taken in a drop from €630,000.

“I’d have to work 12 or 13 years before I’d even get close to that. The pension levy and the income levy have almost crippled me, I’m down €50 a week and I’m having sleepless nights over it.

“I had to skip my rent for the last two weeks so I could go into town the other day and get my kids their Christmas stuff,” he said.

Olivia Greene, who deals with workers’ PAYE queries on the Revenue phone service since joining two years ago, said she took home around €23,000 last year.

“It’s crazy when people keep talking about the average public service worker getting €40,000. They have to realise the difference between the very high earners and the rest of us. The €2,000 a year I’m going to be down from the levy is money I would otherwise be able to put into local businesses,” she said.

“Nobody denies that a pay cut of some form has to happen at some stage, but what good is it to take it off people earning €20,000 to €25,000 who can barely make ends meet,” said Olivia, a member of the Civil, Public and Services Union (CPSU).

At Cork Prison, dozens of staff braved near-gale conditions atop Military Hill during two one-hour stoppages. Prison officer Mick Sheehan said they were angry at the idea of being asked for greater efficiency, when €30 million in savings has already been achieved by the Prison Officers Association by replacing overtime payments with annualised hour contracts in 2005.

His colleague Orla Hannon said the pension levy and other extra deductions introduced in the last year have meant she is losing up to €1,000 a month in take-home pay.

“I’m paying the levy on earnings that aren’t even pensionable and I’ll have to work 30 years to get the full pension. Brian Cowen has his after five and so does Enda Kenny, who also has a teacher’s pension, and nothing is ever said about that,” she said.

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