Workers at the Local Employment Services and Jobs Clubs in Laois and Offaly are to ballot for strike action due to a government decision to terminate its contract with the existing not-for-profit community-based providers. The workers are members of SIPTU.
Local Employment Services (LES) have provided assistance to unemployed people since the 1990s. Supports range from literacy to interview skills and job placements.
In May, the Department of Social Protection issued a request for tender (RFT) to expand employment services across seven counties which did not have an LES and introduce a new pay-per-jobseeker funding approach. The Department admitted that it was also preparing RFTs for when existing public employment service provision expires at the end of this year.
“The Minister for Social Protection, Heather Humphreys, has said on more than one occasion that she would take lessons from the first phase of the public tendering process for LES and Job Clubs. The objective lesson that can be taken from this first phase is that eight of our members working in LES and Job Clubs in county Laois and county Offaly have been given notice that their employment will be terminated at the end of the year,” said Adrian Kane, SIPTU Public Administration and Community Division Organiser.
Members of the trade unions Fórsa and SIPTU have been campaigning against the tendering process, including a protest outside the constituency office of the Minister for Social Protection, Heather Humphreys. The ‘Our Community Is Not For Sale’ campaign demands an immediate halt to the government tendering process.
“SIPTU members have been campaigning against this tendering process which will result in the effective privatisation of these critical social services. It has always been clear to us that the process was designed to favour private companies over community sector providers. The outcome of the first phase of this process has proven that our worst fears were justified,” said Kane.
“To add insult to injury, the Department of Social Protection, which is responsible for our members losing their jobs, will not even fund the community organisations employing them to pay collectively bargained redundancy terms.
“It was a political decision that has led to our members losing their jobs and the dispute over their redundancy terms will also only be resolved by political action. In light of this, SIPTU representatives have written to all Oireachtas members within the Laois/Offaly constituency seeking urgent meetings.”
He added: “Last week, the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Social Protection, Community and Rural Development and the islands issued a report on LES and Job Clubs which supports the retention of these services in their current form. We believe that following this report, the tendering process for LES and Job Clubs should be suspended and a stakeholder forum comprised of interested parties should be established to discuss the future of these essential community services.”