This story originally appeared in November’s edition of The Socialist Voice.
I had started working in 1983 after completing a decent Leaving Cert. Life was simple then, and over the next fourteen years I had moved from working for a small local company to working in a major international conglomerate as PA to the chief executive.
In 1996 I got married, and the following year our first child was born. My husband and I decided that one of us should give up work to mind our children. I agreed to give up work, even though I was earning far more than my partner. Some years later, in 2009, I took up a course in women’s studies, which was sponsored by one of the universities.The course lasted four years, and I graduated with a diploma in women’s studies last June. In 2013 I had decided to re-enter the work-place after finishing a computer course—another one of these measures that would hopefully “maximise my employment prospects,” as the Government is so fond of telling us. I got a few days here and there before getting a position for three months at the end of the year.
It was a boost to my morale to be earning money again. Then again, it wasn’t simply of my own volition that I returned to employment. My spouse hadn’t received a pay rise since 2008, which means his net wage has fallen, as his employer’s pension contributions have stopped altogether.
I signed up with various recruitment web sites in the new year, yet the only part-time positions available (it wouldn’t be practical for me to accept a full-time post) were part of the Job Bridge scheme, which I wasn’t eligible for. At the end of March I spotted an offer on one of these web sites for a company based nearby, and I applied for it, despite the Job Bridge tag. Soon afterwards I got a call and went for the interview.
I told them that I wasn’t eligible for the Job Bridge scheme, to which they replied, “Well, that changes things.” I was offered a six-month placement at €100 a week for twenty-five hours’ work. They indicated that there would be a permanent placement at the end of the contract. I accepted, as I wasn’t going to get the experience elsewhere and thought this would look good on my CV. My spouse was disgusted at the news, and the kids were slightly aghast, but they saw my side, and I knuckled down.
I enjoyed the work, although the employer always kept me at a distance and never spoke to me once during the six months about my position, even though I was tasked with exactly the same role as my colleague in customer service. I was confident that I would be kept on, as I was always kept busy.
My six months were up at the end of October, and when no discussion regarding a future position seemed forthcoming, I e-mailed my boss.
I was called in to the office and promptly told that I was no longer any use to the company. I was given the excuse that my employer had recently been suffering from back pain and would be staying in the office in future, and therefore someone else could be transferred from accounts to customer service. I was given a week’s notice and told that I could do up my own reference. That was the end of it.
A month has passed since I was let go, and I feel cheated. I don’t regret taking up the six-month placement in the first instance, as I really hadn’t any other options. I am probably only one of thousands of people in this country who just want a half-decent job so as to ease the financial burden but have been duped by an unscrupulous, miserly employer who simply doesn’t want to pay a proper wage.
He moves on, unperturbed by it all, and will probably do the same thing again.