By Cate McCurry, PA
Staff in local employment services have called on the Taoiseach to intervene in a dispute, in what workers described as a “threat of privatisation”.
More than 100 demonstrators gathered outside Leinster House in Dublin to protest against the “threat to their livelihoods” and services they provide to the community.
In a letter to Micheál Martin, staff working in Local Employment Services (LES) and Job Clubs have called on the Fianna Fáil leader to “immediately intervene” and save the services.
Siptu and Forsa members have raised concern over a decision to allow private companies to bid for new State contracts for programmes that help people back to work.
Now: #OurCommunityIsNotForSale protest kicking off in Dublin.
— SIPTU (@SIPTU) September 6, 2021
Unions say the tendering process will turn the service over to for-profit private companies.
Unions said that it comes at a time when the sector is essential to people going back to the workforce.
The letter was delivered to the Department of the Taoiseach at Government Buildings.
Siptu public administration and community division organiser, Adrian Kane, said: “Our action has highlighted the decision by the Minister for Social Protection, Heather Humphreys, to change the tendering process for the provision of essential local employment services.
“The reality is that these workers and local development companies have very successfully provided this essential public service for over 25 years.
“In the face of an attempt to privatise the sector, they have been left with no other option but to take to the streets to fight for their jobs and the vital services they provide.”
He added: “Calls from Siptu and Forsa representatives for an urgent meeting with the Minister for Social Protection have consistently been met with silence.
“We are now calling on the Taoiseach to step in and establish a genuine stakeholder forum to agree a fair way forward for the sector.
“If this does not happen, this dispute will escalate further and will undoubtedly have an impact on these essential community services.”
Forsa official Lynn Coffey, said: “Jobs have been lost already and more are on the line if this privatisation proceeds as planned.
#OurCommunitiesAreNotForSale Delighted to have Dublin Lord Mayor @AlisonGilliland‘s support today as our members in Local Employment services rally to protest plans to privatise local community services pic.twitter.com/A46rQTkY3d
— Fórsa trade union (@forsa_union_ie) September 6, 2021
“Vital community employment services will also be damaged at a time when over 300,000 people are unemployed or on PUP payments.”
LES manager in county Mayo, Orlagh Denneny, said: “Privatising these essential services would be a travesty.
“Privatisation does not work in community services.
“It will result in chronic long-term unemployment and subsequent social problems for individuals who have many barriers to employment.
“Pulling the service now from safe hands, at a time when Covid-19 presents an employment crisis like never before, just beggars belief.”