As the fairy-tale of New York rings around Ireland’s hospitality and retail sectors, the staff of such establishments find themselves more attune to the reality of Dublin city rather than Shane MacGowan’s epic.
Retail Ireland’s pre-Christmas forecast, as reported in the Irish Times on December 1st, claimed that the Irish population was due to spend an estimated 4 billion in shops during the month of December.
For shops to deal with such a volume of sales, an extra 35,000 people find themselves working over the festive period compared to last year’s figures. This is an increase of almost 100,000 Christmas staff from 2012’s figures as more and more of Ireland’s workforce toil with gruesome shifts and impatient customers during the holiday season.
Among the most frequently exploited are the third level students. Fresh from the toll of assignments and exams, students are often faced with the thankless task of bearing the burden of both retail and hospitality sectors.
Those who are employed as temporary staff are consistently worked to the bone with the tenuous promise of a permanent position if their work is of a high enough standard. Similarly, students with permanent part-time jobs are often forced to work extra shifts to cover full-time staff who are entitled to Christmas holidays.
Exposed and voiceless, students juggle the looming burden of college deadlines with an increasing responsibility in the workforce. As Christmas retail markets show no signs of letting up, with January sales customary, and the only thing settling down in the hospitality sector is the umpteenth pint of Guinness on the counter, perhaps it is time to remodel Ireland’s third level system so as to avoid the Christmas overlap.
Until then, on behalf of the students who are exploited this Christmas, I echo a sentiment expressed by none other than Mr Shane MacGowan himself – Merry Christmas me arse I pray God it’s our last!