IT’s gone midnight and the strike has ended. We’ll return to our normal jobs on Monday and then take St Patrick’s Day off because its our statutory entitlement. Then we’ll be back in on Wednesday for a very short working week. 

Annual and statutory leave is one of the reasons for private sector workers having a bee in their bonnets about us public sector folks. 

I voted Yes when Unison sent me my ballot paper. I also voted Yes in the Belfast Telegraph poll, when they tried and failed at swaying public opinion.  I voted Yes because I want to have a disposable income at the end of the month.  I want the old morale of my workplace to return.  With cuts to services and actual physical space – conditions have become cramped and stressful to work in.

 

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 Alone and colleague-less, I showed my face at the picket line as a gesture of thanks to my union reps.  This year they supported me in my return to work and for that, they’re worth the measly monthly fee. 

 Sickness – another reason why the private sector have no sympathy for us. We are entitled to six months full pay and they only receive statutory sick pay. That’s not our fault. They chose to work in the private sector, just like we chose public. 

 They have this opinion that we are all going to retire on golden handshakes and cushy pensions. We’re not. I’m definitely not. My monthly contribution was £50 per month deducted from my wages into a superannuation scheme. The option was there to cash in before two years of service – that I did. Because I’d rather have the £50 in my pocket. I could be hit by a bus tomorrow. Nobody knows. Given the Translink cut backs, I’ll be waiting a long time for that bus before it hits me. 

 One year on and I’m still waiting on the refund. My union is helping me get it back. The finance office lost my claim form, twice. But that’s what happens when you scrap a department of maths nerds and replace them with temps on minimum wage with no rights – morale is so low that they couldn’t give a toss about their work so they certainly won’t lose any sleep over my paltry refund. 

 I know because I was once an NHS temp working for £6.50 an hour with no rights. I had no reason to join a union. When they went on strike in 2011 I was at my desk, giving dirty looks out the window to the skivers at the gates as I saw them then.

Yesterday’s strike showed a massive divide. But as Catholics, Protestants and none stood together – a deeper division developed between the two sectors. 

 It raised the issues: 

What about a pay raise for private sector workers? 

All workers no matter what service they work in, should receive a living wage. If the private sector go on strike to demand better pay with decent working conditions then we should support them. 

Private sector workers get laid off when they’re off sick, you can walk back into your job.

Nobody chooses to get sick. If you’re unhappy with your contract, you should organise and demand a higher rate of sick pay. Stand up and be counted. 

What about entrepreneurs earning a living wage? 

True – they should.

Invest NI needs to start subsidising smaller businesses. We need proper jobs, long term investment and financial support for our entrepreneurs. The dripping of millions into short term solutions such as call centres – is not sustainable. 

Service Level Agreements need to be serverly scrutinised before any money is handed over to the multi nationals. There should be an agreement that these companies are stuck in Northern Ireland for at least twenty years. 

Ageas is one such example of companies coming here, setting up shop – extracting millions from our pot and then threatening to bugger off once the cash dries up. 

But sure, some thicko will ignore all that and blame immigrants for our impending bankruptcy.

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