Members of the trade unions Fórsa and SIPTU protested outside the constituency office of the Minister for Social Protection, Heather Humphreys TD, on Thursday. They are seeking the establishment of a stakeholder forum to resolve what unions see as a threat of privatisation to local employment services.
The action was part of the ongoing ‘Our Community is Not for Sale’ campaign, which demands an immediate halt to the government tendering process for private companies to bid for state contracts, contracts to run programmes that assist people getting back into the workforce.
In May, the Department of Social Protection issued a request for tender (RFT) to expand employment services across seven countries which don’t currently have the service. The RFT introduced a new pay-per-jobseeker funding approach. The Department is also preparing RFTs for when the current contracts for all contracted public employment service provision expire at the end of this year.
“Our members are demanding that the Minister keeps her word and engages directly with the representatives of staff, service providers and service users to ensure the future of local employment services. The establishment of a genuine stakeholder forum would be the way to make an immediate start,” said SIPTU Deputy General Secretary, John King.
King went on to say that the workers expected the Minister to honour commitments she had made in the Dáil to meet with their representatives.
“The reality is that every day the Minister refuses to meet us or to enter a dialogue, the more and more people are being consigned to the dole queue. That is not good enough. With long-term unemployment, particularly among young people, running at unsustainable levels these essential community services are needed now more than ever.”
Peter Glynn, SIPTU Community Sector Organiser, said: “If these tendering processes proceed as planned it will lead to the wholesale privatisation of local employment services. This will see the forcing out of the effective community-based non-profit providers of local employment services. It makes no economic sense and it will rip the heart out of communities.”
Fórsa Assistant General Secretary, Lynn Coffey said:“As individual employments, these workers are very vulnerable. But there is power in coming together. With the collective support of Fórsa and SIPTU comes collective strength and these members have the full support of our unions.