It looks like we’re headed for a harsh winter – and I’m not referring to the weather. We can take the cold, rain and snow, but runaway price increases, inflation and the greed of those who already have more than enough will do the damage.
For some, winter can mean not being able to afford everything they need to keep their children warm, feed them, and stave off the darkness.
This is the reality of a cost of living crisis. People who, no matter how hard they work, are not paid enough to make ends meet.
Last week, Vincent de Paul reported he was getting 30 calls an hour, many from people who were over the limit due to the cost of sending their children back to school.
There is an old Irish tradition. This is known as depriving essential public services of the resources they need to function properly.
In schools, that means hitting parents with demands for “voluntary contributions” to pay for heating or lights or other necessities.
This creates tensions related to fear, embarrassment and pressure – teachers don’t like that and too many parents can’t afford it.
In hospitals, this old Irish tradition means we provide fewer beds than we need and medical professionals have to work dangerously long hours.
Here is the beginning of a current one Sindo Story by Hugh O’Connell: “The HSE cannot tell how many of its staff are working shifts longer than 24 hours in breach of EU law.”
Note – we’ve fallen so far that the main story isn’t about the fact that medics work absurdly long shifts. We now take that for granted. The story is that the HSE itself does not know how many of their workers are forced into this dangerous practice to keep hospitals running.
Say hello to winter 2022 now.
Price increases are coming our way like a train. Prices that used to be measured in hundreds are now in thousands.
In which indo Last week a cafe owner from Athlone shared her story. Their electricity cost 12,700 euros last year. She wasn’t complaining about it, it’s the cost of the business.
But a new electric bill had arrived, a bill for 10 grand – for two months.
She expects the total annual electricity costs for her company to increase from 12,700 to 45,000 euros. Plus VAT.
All the usual calculations we do to plan for the expected winter plagues don’t apply this year. The breaking news app on my phone is working overtime, and when it beeps, it’s never a sign of good news.
Beep… Electricity up 34 percent on average. And refuel 39pc.
Beep after beep, one supplier after the other, and all with breathtaking price increases.
If the price hikes are that big, even those of us who have jobs and decent incomes will feel the effects. Many people who work hard in genuinely useful jobs for wages nowhere near good enough are being overwhelmed by the increases.
I’m referring to the people we were all grateful to when the pandemic hit. People at the checkout, people cleaning hospitals, people delivering goods, people running the grocery chain — you know who I mean: the people we suddenly realized are the people who make this country the most keep going.
In contrast to the highly paid, long-winded guys in the cool suits, which are mainly used for decoration.
During the pandemic, we have found that the workers in the factories and shops, the medical workers and the transport workers are not being paid anywhere near enough.
And then the vaccines came and the dangers subsided and we suddenly didn’t care so much about the heroes and the wages and conditions they had to endure.
This winter will be tough for all of us. But the people who just barely make ends meet may end up having to make decisions no one should ever have to make. Some will have to ask themselves: What is most important tonight – warmth, light or food?
And paying the energy companies is just part of what will make this winter unforgettable — the companies promise to raise prices, but they can’t promise we won’t have blackouts.
One of the energy companies pushing up its prices is SSE Airtricity — a 35 percent jump in electricity prices and a 39 percent rise in gas prices.
Why is this happening?
Well, it says cost and, you know, “market volatility.” I’m not sure what that means exactly, but I’m sure it’s very profound.
Here’s a sentence from a story by Charlie Weston in the indo: “The price increases are due to SSE Airtricity Ireland paying a dividend of 115 million euros to its UK parent company last year.”
Oh, well, shareholders are fine.
And guess how much the CEO of SSE Airtricity gets these days?
Now one could imagine that this guy could even survive a hard winter with 4 or 3 million euros or even 1 million or half a million euros – or a whopping 200,000 euros.
Do not make a fool of yourself. Mr. Bigbucks got a 47 percent raise, so he gets $5.3 million.
Meanwhile, a government minister is caught late in registering his ownership of a house. And as we get used to this sort of thing, we file it with some relief.
For three years in a row, Stephen Donnelly forgot to remember how many houses he owned.
Stephen is the second minister we’ve recently found hopelessly incapable of counting his houses – and equally inadequate at filling out official forms.
Mind you, there must be a small handicap in the service provider to be so bad at counting. Being Health Minister in Ireland takes a lot of counting.
In July of this year, for example, there were 9,191 patients on trolleys – nearly 10,000 people deprived of a hospital bed.
That’s a 52 percent increase from trolley numbers from July last year.
Things are bad even before the harsh winter comes.
In March 2006, then-Secretary of Health Mary Harney declared a “national emergency” over trolley culture.
Sixteen years later, the state of emergency isn’t over – the numbers are only getting worse.
Already this year we have had eight straight months of emergency room overcrowding.
Declaring an emergency means nothing unless you arrange emergency response. And there is no risk of that happening. So declaring a state of emergency has no effect other than giving voters the impression that you are doing something.
Back in 2007, a year after the start of the national emergency, Enda Kenny was the leader of the Fine Gael and solemnly pledged to end what he called “the scandal of the people on trolleys”.
And I could be wrong, but I think Fine Gael made a similar promise ahead of the 2011 general election. And maybe the 2016 election too.
That’s the great thing – you can make promises, you can even declare a national emergency. And as long as you sound like you’re doing something, people think, yeah, thank god they’re finally taking this issue seriously.
And the game goes on.
Every day I expect Mr Varadkar’s screenwriter to give him a line about how we face “a winter like no other”. And Mr. V will put on his serious face to show that he cares about us, not those horrible Shinners.
And the game goes on.
Good news to finish.
I know you’re worried about how TDs on salaries as low as $101,000 will get through a tough winter. Fear not, the currently planned increase in public service will bring you an increase of €6,500.
So they stand at €107,500, God bless them.
And. That. Game. Goes. On.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/a-47pc-pay-rise-for-the-man-who-puts-up-energy-prices-41959503.html A 47 percent pay rise for the man who raises energy prices