Tag Archives: social inequality

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

International Women’s Day -100 Years

The first International Women’s Day was celebrated in March 1911.  It had its origins in America a few years earlier where women had come together to protest against poor working conditions, resulting in a National Women’s Day being declared by the Socialist Party of America.  Subsequently at an International Conference for Working Women in  Copenhagen, attended by delegates from 17 countries, and including  the first 3 women elected to the Finnish Parliament, a proposal to have a special day each year to focus on women’s issues was met with unanimous approval.

Austria, Germany, Switzerland and Denmark observed the first International Women’s Day in March 1911.  More than a million men and women attended rallies in support of women’s right to work, right to vote, right to hold public office.  In 1913, Russian women observed International Women’s Day campaigning for peace and in 1914, other European countries joined in.

In 1917, amid great unrest in Russia caused by millions of casualties, terrible food shortages, and with many women removed from farms to work in the factories,  International Women’s Day prompted 90,00 workers to strike and the army at Petrograd to revolt.  Attempts to end the unrest were not successful  and Tsar Nicholas II abdicated some days later. The new provisional government granted universal suffrage with equality for women.

Down the decades, the movement has continued to grow and has become a worldwide event in countries all over the world. In 25 countries it is an official holiday while in China Madagascar and Nepal it is  an official holiday for women only.  In many countries from Bangladesh to Guinea,  from Vietnam to Iceland, from Afghanistan to Zambia, events will take place on March 8th to mark  International Women’s Day. The top 5 countries for International Women’s day activity to mark the centenary on March 8th  are the  UK, Canada, Australia, the United States and Ireland.

International Women’s Day has evolved into a global day of celebration of the achievements of women, socially, politically, and economically. Women’s rights campaigners highlight inequalities and raise money for  Charity. Celebrities the world over  associate themselves with the day – Annie Lennox will lead a march in London; people will march on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. demanding better conditions for marginalized women all over the world, Ban Ki-moon will issue a special address  from the United Nations.

Cork will celebrate historic women astronomers, Dublin will have an exhibition about  Hannah Sheehy Skeffington; Limerick hosts a photographic exhibition on the lives of women helped by Concern, Kilkenny has a business women’s lunch for charity. You can attend a tea party in Mallow, or attend a musical evening hosted by Amnesty International in PortLaoise;  you can have pancakes in Sligo or experience  Native American Ceremony in Gorey! There are dozens of other events.   If you would like to see what is in your country, your area, click here. Not all events are taking place on Tuesday the 8th, so you may manage to attend more than one! Or why not have one yourself!

Visit the website of  International Women’s Day

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Filed under Ireland, Social Change, Suffrage

Those who can pay most, will pay most?

Everybody pays, and those who can pay most will pay most.

This is a direct quote from the Budget speech on December 7th 2010, of Ireland’s Minister for Finance, Brian Lenihan.

Since then Irish workers have braced themselves for the impact on pay packets of the new ‘Universal Social Charge’ and changes to tax bands.  The effect will be harsh, but everyone is in this together and ‘those who can pay most, will pay most.’

Newspapers and websites published calculators to help people work out the effect of the budget on their personal take home pay.  There were significant differences between various sites and it became clear that the effects of the Universal Social Charge and alterations in tax bands were so complex that it was almost impossible to calculate the impact.  For example, one site suggested that the impact of the budget on a widow over 60 on an annual income of €45,000 would be in the order of €83 per month, another calculated the reduction in pay at €65 per month.

Reality has arrived in pay packets since the end of the first week in January. The effects of the budget on ‘ordinary’ workers of all ages and many circumstances have been quite shocking.  Many were openly stunned;  – not least the widow in the example above who found that the reduction in pay was €216 per month.  A medical card holder was equally badly hit by the abolition of the reduced PRSI rate and finds that they are paying an extra €180 per month.

‘Everybody pays, and those who can pay most will pay most‘ These are the exact words from a transcript of the Budget speech.  It was in fact a lie.

The impact of the Universal Social Charge on a single worker with an annual salary of €150,000 will result in an INCREASE in take home pay of about €120 per month.  And it has been calculated that a person with an income of €1million per annum will be some €23,000 better off as a result of this budget.

‘Those who can pay most, will pay most?’

For more see the Irish Independent.

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Filed under Budget 2011, Older Generation, Seniors, Social Policy, Widows in Ireland, Working Poor