Unite pledges to support unemployed members in campaigning for end to compulsory labour
February 27th: Responding to the roll-out of the Government’s ‘Gateway’ scheme, which will see up to 3,000 jobseekers forced to take up work with local authorities or risk having their benefits cut, Unite Regional Coordinating Officer Walter Cullen today warned that the scheme could be in breach of the UN Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the European Human Rights Convention.
“This ill-considered programme is unlikely to improve jobseekers’ long-term employment prospects, but may well place Ireland in breach of the UN Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, relating to the right to freely choose one’s work, and the European Convention on Human Rights which states that no-one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour.
“Unite is fully supportive of well-designed employment and activation measures within the public service, but there is no evidence that compulsory labour schemes such as this help the long-term unemployed find a route back into employment: on the contrary, a peer-reviewed study carried out for the UK’s Department of Work and Pensions in 2012 found that such schemes had no effect in helping people access employment.
“Coercive measures such as this ignore the reality of post-crisis joblessness: there are over 28 unemployed people for every vacancy. While the Government today congratulated themselves on the fall of 20,000 long-term unemployed, they conveniently omitted the fact that over 175,000 have emigrated in the last two years. The overwhelming majority of these would be of working age.
“All the evidence shows that the problem is not the unemployed – it is the lack of jobs. Before the crash, when jobs were available, Ireland had a higher proportion of young people in employment than most countries with mandatory work programmes. We also had one of the lowest levels of unemployment and long-term unemployment among all age groups.
“Unite will support our unemployed members in campaigning for an end to this compulsory labour scheme.
“The unemployed need real, sustainable and paying jobs – not workfare”, Walter Cullen concluded.