Representatives of workers from local employment services and employment clubs will appear before an Oireachtas committee this morning to outline their concerns about a tendering process for the service by the Department of Social Protection.
SIPTU and Forsa say the process will lead to possible layoffs and disruption of services as people return to work after the Covid-19 pandemic.
The ministry said that in order to comply with the provisions of the EU directive governing public procurement, there must be a competitive procurement process for employment service contracts.
Nestled in the heart of North East Dublin city center, Jenny Courtney runs a youth project that provides a safe environment for young people in the region.
Jenny has taken a roundabout path to become the organization’s CEO, but she has no regrets.
Jenny grew up in what she said was considered an inner city inner city north, in a house full of love.
Her parents left school around the age of 12 and 13 to help support their families.
She was not expected to attend university, but she was always interested in school and took higher level subjects for the Junior Cert.
“Then I met my husband now in graduate school and the Leaving Cert went out the window,” she laughs.
“I guess I was a typical statistic of someone who came from an underprivileged community, and someone who maybe failed their graduation diploma, dropped out of school, got pregnant at 19 years old.”
Jenny had her first child at 19 and her second at 23. As the children got older, she knew she wanted to go back to college and support her husband who worked long hours as a carpenter.
She spotted an advertisement in the Local Employment Service (LES) for a 13-week course in business and administrative skills.
Thanks to the ERP, she had access to a mediator.
“Her name was Teresa, and I don’t think this lady realizes how much she has helped me. She is an integral part of who I am today, and her support has brought me to where I am today. hui. “
Not only did Jenny receive practical support, but Teresa supported her emotionally, making sure she had childcare and helping her with grant applications.
Whenever Jenny doubted herself, Teresa assured her that she was good enough to do anything.
Jenny made her way into academia, earning a first-class Honors degree in Computer Science, Tallaght. Nothing stops her either, she is now doing a master’s degree.
The mediation and mentorship Jenny received through the ERP appears to be in jeopardy.
The Department of Social Protection is looking to bid on the service and workers are now preparing to lose their jobs.
Samantha O’Toole, who is based in Galway LES, fears that people in communities who are socially excluded and further removed from the workforce will be forgotten.
She believes the tendering process is likely to be suitable for private contractors who will provide a generic type of employment service.
“Obviously, it will specifically target those who are about to return to work without a good orientation or intensive orientation,” she said.
She points out that LES has been working in the community for 25 years, so they are aware of the barriers people from underprivileged backgrounds face and know well those they work with.
“I don’t think private entrepreneurs would have the same knowledge or experience working with people and within the community as we do,” she said.
Samantha and her colleagues are preparing to quit their jobs by December.
Some staff have already left their posts due to the insecurity surrounding their future.
“It’s a shame because we are losing valuable guidance counselors, guidance counselors from different organizations.”
She notes that a job club in the Midlands did not bid on the tender and that workers there were told they would be out of work.
When offered to her that LES get together and bid for a tender, she points out in the first place, it takes money.
“We are not a private organization so we have no funds and we have never made a profit so we have no money,” she said.
Second, she said it’s not the ethics of the way they operate.
“We don’t want to take advantage of people. People shouldn’t be commodities that we can actually make money with and because of this type of model they are introducing, that would be exactly what we would provide, but we are not private entrepreneurs, ”Samantha said.
Fórsa and Siptu, who represent the workers, call for the establishment of a stakeholder forum and a stay of the execution of the public tendering process.
They say the ministry told them the tendering process is necessary because of EU law.
SIPTU’s divisional organizer in the public administration and community division, Adrian Kane, said they have asked the ministry to tell them which EU directives or laws they refer to, but have stated that they had no clarity.
In a statement to RTÉ News, the ministry said it has contracted with a range of service providers for the provision of employment support services to job seekers upon their return to the labor market. job.
“These services fall under the provisions of Directive 2014/24 / EU governing public procurement and must be awarded by open invitation to tender.
He added that the opinion of the Attorney General was that in order to comply with these EU procurement rules, a competitive procurement process was needed for employment service contracts, including those issued. by the local employment service and employment clubs.
The ministry said it was working “to expand its capacity to deliver employment services and deliver high-quality employment services designed to meet the employment assistance and support needs of people “.
He concluded that the services would be procured in a manner consistent with the legal obligations of the Ministry.
Perhaps there is an argument for the service to be improved and improved. Adrian Kane said that from the start, SIPTU and Fórsa agreed to change the service, improve it so that it is not taken away from communities.
While the Oireachtas committee that union representatives will sit before this morning are all in favor of keeping the system as it is, it is clear that it is department officials – who are citing EU directives and advice from the GA – who must be convinced.