They may be the happy, shining faces of most of the bars you frequent in New York City, but many Irish bar and restaurant staff have a secret fear this holiday season...the fear of losing their jobs should they return to Ireland for Christmas.
Wanting to stay anonymous for obvious reasons, 20 Irish bartenders and servers from different bars were asked if they thought that they would lose their jobs should they take time off for the Christmas season. The result was overwhelming with 14 out of the 20 asked believing they would indeed lose their jobs should they take time off.
Maria M, spending her first Christmas in New York City as a server, was actually told when taking the job in the summer that she would not be hired unless she promised herself available around Christmas time.
‘Of course I said yeah...if it’s the choice between a job and no job you’re going to say whatever you can to get it, aren’t you? I’m kind of regretting it now though...I would love to be able to go home over Christmas even just for a few days, you know?’
Kevin R, also spending his first Christmas in America for the holiday season, believes he would definitely lose his job should he return home as he has heard stories about past co-workers.
‘I have heard things about people in the past few years, going home and having voicemails when they come home saying they are no longer needed. So I didn’t even think of going home...my job is more important at the minute....good money to be made over Christmas anyway.’
James S, undocumented and wanting to go away with his girlfriend for Christmas, laments the fragile position of bartenders in New York.
‘We’re just so dispensable, that’s the problem...if we go they will have us replaced within a day with someone that is just as good as you. There’s no stability. It’s a shame cos you hear so many stories about how the Irish are supposed to look after the Irish over here but it’s always Irish bar owners that pack your bags for you.’
Gareth W, in America 7 years and going home for Christmas, states that working in a bar is just like any other job...you have to do the graft work to get security in the post.
‘I hear people complaining all the time about not being able to go home over Christmas but I mean it’s the busiest season of the year in the bars and restaurants....everywhere is packed...they need everyone available to them. I worked 5 years in a row over Christmas and was able to go home last year and this year. You choose to work in a bar...you choose everything else that goes with it.’
* Originally published in 2012.