Unite disappointed at response from Department of Social Protection regarding workfare schemes

Workfare beermatDepartment fails to address dangers inherent in compulsory employment programmes

May 8th: Trade union Unite today expressed disappointment at the response received on behalf of Social Protection Minister Joan Burton to the union’s representations regarding mandatory elements in the Gateway and JobBridge labour activation schemes. In a letter to the Minister on March 20th from Regional Secretary Jimmy Kelly, the union had warned that the introduction of compulsion into the Youth Guarantee could undermine its effectiveness and appeal, especially where young people may be forced into unsuitable positions or programmes that fail to provide effective training.

The union also noted that compulsory job placement programmes will displace work paid at market wages, and that the distortion created by such programmes will have a negative impact on the economy and public finances.  In his letter, Mr Kelly went on to point out that participants could be caught in a situation where they are forced to do the same work as an employed staff member, but for free.

Commenting on the response received today on behalf of Minister Burton, Jimmy Kelly said:

“The Department has failed to offer any response to Unite’s argument that compulsory job placement programmes will displace paid work at market wages.

“Unite fundamentally rejects the Department’s assertion that the non-discretionary element of JobBridge, and the application of penalty rates for non-participation, will “incentivise and motivate” jobseekers onto the path to employment.

“Quite frankly, this assertion is an insult to thousands of young people who are unable to find work at a time when the most recent figures show that there are still 26 jobseekers for every vacancy.

‘Unite supports quality activation programmes involving training, education, literacy/numeracy skills and programmes that improve participants’ skills and ability to fully participate in the economy.

“However, compulsory participation in JobBridge doesn’t provide this. All it does is supply free labour to employers who are not tasked with providing such vital training

“The key to increasing employment not only among young people, but among all those currently unemployed, is to invest in the creation of real and sustainable jobs. The unemployed need jobs – not workfare.

“Unite will continue campaigning against workfare and for job creation”, Mr Kelly concluded.

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