The scale and variety of what comes through my letterbox every day is astonishing. From free newspapers like ours and genuine correspondence, right down the scale to charity scams, there is always something on the doormat when I get home in the evening. But I’ve been noticing some new additions to the pile recently; leaflets from trade union groups urging me to ‘Get Up, Stand Up’ (ICTU) and outlining 7 Steps to Transform (IMPACT).
The IMPACT leaflet has a picture of a sick baby – named Laura – on the front, and says ‘Laura needs Ireland’s public services much more than Ireland needs to cut them’. When I contacted IMPACT to ask about Laura, I was told that she is a stock image , “an image that would illustrate where the campaign was coming from, very much from the point of view of a service user”.
Whether Laura is real or simply an illustration is not the core issue here. If she was real (like, for example, Jake Cloake, the 14-month-old from Enniscorthy, who is really awaiting a vital heart operation), it wouldn’t lessen the cynicism of a trade union, representing public sector workers, using the emotional hook of a sick child to persuade other workers to back what is essentially a campaign to retain pay and conditions for the union’s members.
I have no grudge against public sector workers. Like everyone else, the majority are hardworking, decent people who have worked hard to get where they are, and are dismayed to find themselves out of pocket compared to this time last year through a combination of levies and increased taxes.
However, by and large, public sector workers are reasonably well paid and have entitlements the rest of us can only dream about. Calling a pension levy ‘a pay cut’, when it still does not add up to the amount required to pay out that same pension is disingenuous at best. Public servants pay ‘towards’ their pensions; they do not pay for them.
The use of this emotional imagery – ‘think of the children’, if you will – does not say much for the integrity of IMPACT’s message. If they thought people would support calls to retain pay and conditions of public sector workers, that’s what they’d have asked for. Instead, they’ve used emotive imagery to imply that cuts in their wages will affect your children’s future.
In this week’s Cork Independent, we’ve brought you a special report (pages 10 – 12) on the front-line workers who say their livelihood is being threatened by the proposals in the McCarthy report and the upcoming Budget.
Our reporter Eoin Weldon spoke to three public servants – a nurse, a Garda and a fireman – who provide essential services for the running of the country. They are angry because they believe they’re being scapegoated for the mistakes of politicians and bankers (true) and they are afraid of what could happen to them following the Budget.
The IMPACT campaign does these workers a disservice by using shock tactics instead of explaining their reasons. Here, we do that for you, so that you can make up your own mind.