Unions advise Oireachtas Committee on growing crisis in local employment services
Fórsa and SIPTU representatives are attending a meeting with the Oireachtas Committee on Social Protection today (Wednesday) to discuss the growing crisis in local employment services and jobs clubs. Union representatives are outlining several contributing factors to the crisis, their concerns over the tendering process and the lack of a genuine stakeholders forum.
Unions have said a Government-imposed tendering process favours for-profit providers over the current community-focussed, not-for-profit service. This means that privatisation, job losses and a diminished employment service is likely unless the Government changes course.
Fórsa assistant general secretary Lynn Coffey (pictured) told the committee this morning: “We’re seeking a pause to be put on the proposed tendering process. Experience shows that turning these services, and the people who need them, into a profit-driving commodity is simply unworkable.
“Our message to the committee today is to put the service users first, particularly at a time when the pandemic has inflicted so much damage on the labour market. We’re asking the Department to engage in meaningful and inclusive engagement with representatives from the service providers, the service users, employee representatives and academics and to take an approach that is consistent with achieving the maximum social benefit.”
Our message to the committee today is to put the service users first, particularly at a time when the pandemic has inflicted so much damage on the labour market.
SIPTU official Adrian Kane said the tendering process is ‘deeply flawed’ and would ultimately lead to an inferior service being provided, resulting in significant job losses: “We believe that a forum is essential for building a real consensus around the future provision of public employment services. We do not believe that marketisation of these essential social services works or enjoys popular support.”
Unions are calling on the members of the committee to support the campaign to halt the tendering process and to allow a full and wider debate about the future provision of these services with a focus on workers’ welfare. In a statement issued by the committee yesterday (Tuesday), Committee Cathaoirleach Denis Naughten TD said today’s meeting would provide an opportunity to question the Department of Social Protection on the proposed changes and the reason behind the new phased procurement process.
There are concerns that a tendering process for employment services initiated by the Department of Social Protection will lead to possible redundancies and a disruption of service continuity at the worst possible time for jobseekers.
He added: “The Committee recommended in its recent pre-Budget submission that Local Employment Services and Job Clubs be maintained in their current model. There are concerns that a tendering process for employment services initiated by the Department of Social Protection will lead to possible redundancies and a disruption of service continuity at the worst possible time for jobseekers.
“There is a real fear that the person centred approach of employment services and jobs clubs will be replaced with a purely placement focused approach excluding valuable key aspects of existing services like personal development,” he said.