Sinn Féin spokesperson on Social Protection Claire Kerrane TD has raised concerns about the government’s decision to proceed with phase two of the tendering process for employment services, which will dismantle community-based, not-for-profit employment services.
This new tender follows the first phase of the tender process, which saw significant political opposition and protest from organisations and unions working in employment services.
The proposed model set out in phase one involved a shift from the community-based and people-centred focus of employment services, to one which is driven by profit.
The recently-launched second tender expands on the scope of the first tender, and will seek to commercialise the provision of employment services in 19 counties across the State.
The launch of the Request for Tender (RFT) terms for phase two has raised further concerns about the future of employment services.
Teachta Kerrane said:
“With the launch of tender two, the government has very clearly signalled their intention to proceed with dismantling vital community-based employment services, which have worked for the last 25 years.
“Minister Humphreys has repeatedly stated in recent months that key learnings would be taken from the shameful first phase of the tender process, which saw current community based providers unable to tender in the first place let alone compete.
“Yet, despite the calls of unions and those working in the sector, and cross-party support for the protection of employment services in their current form, she has clearly chosen not to listen.
“It was raised time and time again with the Minister that her plans to shift the model of employment services to one which focused on profit over people was a terrible idea.
“The decision to commercialise employment services not only threatens their community-based ethos, but may also leave staff, many of whom have been successfully delivering these services for up to 25 years, without jobs.
“It is clear that phase one involved many administrative and financial hurdles for those who were applying, resulting in many Local Employment Services (LES) and Jobs Clubs branches being unable to submit a tender.
“Based on yesterday’s information session held by the department, the process is still clearly set up in the interest of private companies who have the resources to apply for contracts.
“This is further evidence of the corporatising of employment services and we see the Minister and her Department wanting to sell employment services to the highest bidder – regardless of the cost to those seeking employment and those working in these services.
“I have called on the Minister to halt the process of tendering employment services many times now, but she chooses not to listen.
“She has refused to listen to the staff, the unions, the cross-party Committee on Social Protection, the Public Accounts Committee and the will of the Members of the Dáil, who unanimously supported our recent Dáil Motion to protect the current not-for-profit community based model.
“She says she is obliged to put the contracts for these services out to competition, but she is not required to do it in this way, nor was she obliged to change the model.
“The least she can do is really take learnings from phase one and seek to make the process fair, and to engage with unions and organisations representing staff regarding jobs and redundancies.
“I am calling on her to do this now.”