Article from the Oct 2004 edition, Socialist Voice

Interview: Life of a low paid worker

Socialist Voice spoke to Jay (not his real name), a young worker in Cork, about his experiences of being "traded" from employer to employer by recruitment agencies.

Tell us about your first job.

The first job I got was with Apple. I was employed by a recruitment agency and farmed out to Apple on a three month temporary contract. Wages were OK but there was no job stability. You could be let go at a moment's notice and rehired again months down the road.

And you were let go?

Yeah. And when I was let go I was unemployed for three weeks and would have lost my accomodation if I didn't sign up with Noel Recruitment who hired me out for Euro7 an hour. These jobs were in warehouses and factories and would change from week to week.

Where did you go from there?

After that I worked in security. This was direct employment by the company at a little over Euro8 an hour. Most of it was night work and there was no such thing as time and a half. Some of the work was outside off-licences. You got no training or no radio. You were meant to be some kind of human deterrent but the company wasn't interested in safety or anything.

Where are you now?

I've got a better job now. I'm working for O'Neill and Brennan construction sub-contractors for Euro12.77 an hour. But like with Apple you could be out of a job in the future if the work drops off.

How did you find trying to live on these wages?

Forget saving on the minimum wage because it can't be done. I can live on my current wage but take out Euro70 or Euro80 rent per week, food and bills and it's still going to take a long time to even have something basic like my own transport.

Did the Unions ever help you?

It was mandatory to join SIPTU with the recruitment agencies. But I never heard from SIPTU about who my shop steward was or anything. It was just Euro3 off my payslip every week.

What do you think should be done to improve the lot of young workers?

A minimum wage of Euro10 an hour would be a start although if you had kids there's no way you could live on so little money. We've also got to get rid of these sub-contractors and recruitment agencies. They produce nothing. They do nothing but leech on your payslip.

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