Category Archives: Older workers

Mandatory Retirement

I was delighted to be interviewed by the Irish Independent journalist Kim Bielenberg last week for his feature on Jobs for the over 65s. My input was on the far-reaching effects of mandatory retirement at age 65 and how it affected me.

The full article can be read here.

 

 

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Filed under Age Action Ireland, Ageing in Ireland, Ageism, Ireland, Older Generation, Older workers, Retirement Age

Age Discrimination in Ireland: Adding a voice

This is the first of three posts on my personal experience of mandatory retirement in Ireland.

Irish Labour TD (Member of Parliament) Anne Ferris has tabled a Bill to abolish mandatory retirement age. The Employment Equality (Abolition of Mandatory Retirement Age) Bill would prohibit employers imposing compulsory retirement ages on their employees. In November last, as a member of Age Action, I was asked to take part in their presentation at the Public Hearings of the Committee stage of the Bill at Leinster House,the seat of our Parliament, the Oireachtas, in Dublin.

Leinster House (Kildare St. entrance)

Leinster House, Dublin. Ireland’s Parliament. (Image oireachtas.ie)

This was my first visit to the Oireachtas and it was appropriate that I was there on a mission about a matter very dear to my heart. I had to vacate my job on my 65th birthday. At age 64 and 364 days I was an acceptable employee, but one day later I was unemployable. My ‘shelf life’ was up; my ‘use by’ date had been reached. Indeed I was fully aware for a long time that my career would grind to a halt at age 65, but I had hoped against hope that new provisions whereby public sector employees who joined after 2004 would not have to retire at age 65, could be extended to serving staff members.This was not to be and my pleas fell on deaf ears. The mandatory retirement age of 65 in the public sector department in which I worked was written in stone, and so agreed with the trade unions. In some departments the mandatory retirement age is 60.

Most of my public sector work colleagues are delighted to retire at age 65 or sooner. Many of them have long service and look forward to the day when they no longer have to work for a living. Some of my colleagues however,dread the day when their earning power is decimated. Like me, they may have entered pensionable employment later in life or they may have been subjected to the highly discriminatory ‘marriage bar’ that only ended in Ireland in the early 1970s. (The marriage bar meant that upon marriage, female employees were no longer eligible to work in the public sector and banks). Shorter working lives means smaller pensions. On retirement, I suffered a loss of income of 75%, yet my household bills, my medical bills and my mortgage still had to be serviced out of the reduced income. As the Dickens character Mr Micawber famously stated in the book David Copperfield, Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen pounds,nineteen shillings and six pence, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.”

Committee Lobby

The Committee Lobby in Leinster House. (Image oireachtas.ie)

It was a privilege to be able to add my voice at the Public Hearings of the Committee stage of the proposed legislation at Leinster House and to hear the heartfelt submissions being made by other participants. Some fearful of losing their jobs at compulsory retirement age because of ongoing family commitments, such as children at university for example, mortgage to pay. Others simply wanted to be able to stay and continue doing a good job as they had done for some time, some angry at having to lose their jobs at a particular age, yet not qualifying for state pension for some years afterwards or despairing of a system that allows for the casting aside of a wealth of experience as with doctors and nurses in our health service, just because of an accidental birthday.

Below are links to the official tapes of the Public Hearings at Leinster House. The recording begins at about 34 minutes in, with Age Action opening statement at 36.50 and my (very wobbly) contribution at 39 minutes mark. .

https://oireachtas.heanet.ie/mp4/cr2/cr2_20151118T090000.000005.mp4

There are two further tapes covering all the submissions and discussions at
https://oireachtas.heanet.ie/mp4/cr2/cr2_20151118T090000.000006.mp4 and
https://oireachtas.heanet.ie/mp4/cr2/

In the aftermath of the submissions, I was asked to take part in a number of interviews by the media. Ocean FM, a radio station serving the Sligo/South Donegal area still has a podcast available at this link:

Donegal Woman Claims Age Discrimination At Being Forced To Retire From Job, NWT, Thurs, 19th Nov . I am unsure about how long the link will remain live.

Other interviews were aired on the Pat Kenny Show on  Newstalk and on Highland Radio while the Irish Daily Mail carried articles on two separate days.

Just before Christmas the Final Report  to Government was published and can be seen here.  The Report recommends a change to the existing law and we look forward to a time when  this will become a reality.

http://www.oireachtas.ie/parliament/media/committees/justice/Final-Report—Retirement-Age.pdf

I would like to express my thanks to Justin Moran and all the Age Action team who do such wonderful work  in raising awareness of issues that directly affect the quality of life of older people in Ireland.

 

 

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Filed under Age Action Ireland, Ageism, Ireland, Living in Ireland, Older workers, Seniors, Social Change, Social Justice

European e-inclusion awards 2012 – inspiration in action

Attended by 1,150 people, followed through internet live-streaming by another 4,000 and, with more than 1,000 social media contributions, I was honoured, thrilled and humbled to be part of the Digital Agenda Assembly in Brussels on 21 and 22 June 2012.

The e-Inclusion Awards were established by the European Commission in 2008  ‘to discover and  celebrate organizations and individuals across Europe who champion new technology and harness the potential of the internet as a means of improving prospects, increasing employability and meeting today’s complex social and economic challenges‘.

Finalists Brochure

As one of only three finalists from across Europe in the category ‘ I am Part of IT  ‘ Personal Stories’ -(Larger Organizations) ‘ I was nominated by Age Action Ireland as a result of winning the Google /Age Action Silver Surfer Award, Social Networking category in 2011 . Age Action is an Irish  national charity which promotes positive ageing and better policies and services for older people. It actively encourages older people ( age 55+ ) to embrace social media. Their ‘Getting Started’ programme, spearheaded by the inspirational Pauline Power, promotes active e-inclusion and has been rolled out to over 6,000 people in the past four years.  Nominated as a finalist from entries from 34 countries,  Pauline accompanied me to the  Digital Media Agenda conference in the European Parliament in Brussels.

Day 1 was devoted to workshops, and our invitation was specifically for the Social Media workshop and feedback sessions,  with day 2 seeing the plenary sessions in the European Parliament chamber itself. Here we  were honoured to be among delegates to greet  Neelie Kroes, Vice President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda for Europe, after her very eloquent address to the assembly. Among the academics, industrialists, politicians and social groups participating were  Professor Luciano Floridi from University of Hertfordshire and University of Oxford, Harry van Dorenmalen chairman of IBM Europe, Gyula Vamosi leader of the Roma  (Gypsy) community ; Anna Maria Darmanin , Vice President European Economic and Social Committee.

Whilst the conference focused on the ‘big picture’ with regard to the information society and the  breaking down of barriers to e- inclusion for all citizens of Europe, it is the ways in which ordinary people access and use the internet that demonstrates just how well the high level goals are making a difference to everyday lives.

Anna Maria Darmanin from Malta  presented the e-inclusion awards in the four categories.

There were 3 finalists in each of 4 different categories

I am part of IT – Personal stories, small organizations (< 19 employees).

The three finalists  were

  • Rosanna Nazir and Nila Smart from the Netherlands for their project helping  women looking for work in the Netherlands
  • Joy Matthews from Caerphilly, Wales and the 50+ Positive Action Partnership.
  • Elton Kalica , Italy . Elton was a most worthy and inspirational winner of this category . Arriving in Italy from Albania he found himself in prison for a long time. Through ICT skills he improved his capabilities,  did two university degrees  and now, having been released he has a good job on the ‘outside’; helping prisoners.

I am part of IT – Personal stories ,big organizations(>19 employees) 

The three finalists were

  • Marek Sikora, Chezh Republic. Marek was the first visually impaired ECDL tester in the Czech republic and he set up a not for profit organization Eye-T.cz to enable visiually impaired people take ICT skills tests.
  • Myself, Angela Gallagher, Republic of Ireland with Age Action , who in spite of living in a rural location without the benefit of broadband has embraced social media. My  experience of how technology can change a person’s life will hopefully inspire more older people to take the plunge and learn how to use computers and the internet.
  • Siemon Dekelver from Belgium had a story about ability, not disability. He was a most inspirational and worthy winner of this category, with WAI-NOT which provides mentally challenged young people with secure web-based communication tools so they can learn IT skills and lead happy and independent socially interactive lives.

Be part of IT –  small organizations .

Finalists were

  • From Romania – a project encouraging e training for 1.8 million people in Romania by reducing the skills gap between rural and urban communities
  • Inforum, Hungary – a project showing how kids and grandparents can encourage one another
  • Storybook Dads – UK were worthy winners –  the simple yet ingenious way to use the internet to improve the lives of families of a parent in prison was truly moving. Imprisoned parents record stories for children to be involved in their lives. The initiative has been shown to cut reoffending.

Be part of IT – big organizations.

The three finalists were

  • UK Online Centres  which help communities deal with social and digital exclusion . A network of 3,800 online communities spreads the word on digital inclusion.
  • Barcelona Activa,  Spain that promotes ICT training and skills  to improve employability
  • The Information Society Development Foundation Poland –  local libraries as agents for digital change. Thousands of librarians in thousands of remote communities have been trained to help otherwise excluded communities become e-included.

The judges felt that both the Barcelona Activa and Information Society Development Foundation from Poland were such extraordinary projects that touched the lives of so many, both were declared winners.

Anna Maria Darmanin, Vice President European Economic & Social Committee  (on extreme right) with finalists in the e-inclusion awards.

Each finalist had a wonderful story to tell. Each story was thoroughly inspirational, and each story was a tribute to the perseverance and dedication of ordinary people who through personal efforts and dedication, made their own lives and the lives of others, extraordinary.

I am grateful  to Age Action Ireland for nominating me and especially to   Pauline Power who was with me in Brussels;  to my son Damian, author of his own excellent blog http://irishamericancivilwar.com/ for encouraging me to get started and for his  support in setting up this blog, and to the over 20,000 visitors to this site. Thank you all!

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Filed under Ageism, Older workers, Retirement Age, Seniors, Social Justice, Social Networking, Social Policy

Fighting Ageism in Ireland

This is the first in a short series of posts recognizing the contribution of  The Atlantic Philanthropies to the improvement of lives of older people in Ireland.

Charles ( Chuck) Feeney is an Irish American businessman who in 1982 set up  the Atlantic Philanthropies.  This is one of the largest philanthropic organizations in the world.  It supports various social justice causes across the globe, including here in Ireland, where the beneficiaries range from the child focussed  Barnardos to the Older & Bolder umbrella organization for social justice for seniors. In 2009 The Atlantic Philanthropies spent US$ 46.1 million in the Republic of Ireland.

The name Chuck Feeney may be familiar to Irish readers as he famously endows third level educational institutions in Ireland, most notably the University of Limerick with many millions of dollars.  Less well know is the  fact that The Atlantic Philanthropies is actively engaged in fighting ageism and has as core beliefs that older people have a right to a good quality of life, health and economic security.  It funds ageing programmes in the United States of America as well in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland that challenge the limitations on full social participation by older people.

The Ageing Programme concentrates on matters of concern to older adults, such as poverty, gender, beliefs, health issues, geographic isolation.  It aims to strengthen the voice of older people and the organizations that represent them so that they may have a positive impact on social policy.

Older & Bolder  has a vision of Ireland that affirms the rights of all older people to live and die in dignity and with the respect of the community at large.  The Atlantic Philanthropies continues through its generous donations to influence this agenda in Ireland.

Read more about The Atlantic Philanthropies on Wikipedia here.

Read more about The Atlantic Philanthropies on their own site here.

Older & Bolder website can be accessed here.

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Filed under Ageism, Healthy Living, Irish_American, Loneliness, Older & Bolder, Older Generation, Older workers, Retirement Age, Seniors, Social Change, Social Justice, Social Policy, Working Poor