Follow-up sought after first union-dept meeting
|Darragh O’Connor of SIPTU
SIPTU and Department representatives met on September 24 to discuss issues arising for workers from the rolling out of proposals in ‘Putting People First’ particularly “alignment” (closer ties between local authorities and local communities as part of the broad programme for reforming local government).
SIPTU official Darragh O’Connor said afterwards, “We asked, ‘Who will deliver the LCDP and RDP programmes?’ ‘What role will the Local Authorities have?’ ‘Will there be redundancies?’”
However, one meeting for the delegation, led by SIPTU Vice President Patricia King, was not sufficient: “Workers need a place to have their issues around alignment addressed… not just a one-off meeting. We are locked out as big decisions are made by the Department and employers,” said Mr O’Connor.
|Minister Phil Hogan
While the Government is introducing major changes nationally to the structures through which Local Development Companies operate, the companies themselves are legally the employers.
The companies are currently negotiating with Department officials via a working group on alignment.
Minister Phil Hogan told the Dail on October 3rd: “In a couple of weeks time, we will know the structures and we will have further discussions with unions.”
He said the working group was about to complete its work and he would report back to the Dail then “on the next stage of the process, to assure workers we will continue to have a very strong community and local government partnership approach to the delivery of services to the people.”
He emphasised, “My Department has no role in the internal operations of the companies and, accordingly, does not have a role in staff or employment matters.”
However, Dail deputies Eric Byrne and Joan Collins pointed out the companies were community-led and objected to the “delay” in opening talks with SIPTU.
Ms Collins said: “Much negotiation has already been done and the workers have not been involved. Already, local authorities are going to the community development workers and saying that they must work hand-in-hand with (them).”
SIPTU’s campaign will continue. “Government and opposition TDs can clearly see that our demands are reasonable. They also understand that without the support and cooperation of workers alignment will fail,” said Mr O’Connor.
He added, “Members will take any opportunity to protect their jobs and the programmes they deliver, including meeting with senior Department officials.”
A Departmental spokesperson, Aidan O’Reilly, commented, “Senior departmental officials met with SIPTU and as we pointed out, the key social inclusion strengths of LDCs and their crucial role in service planning and delivery are clearly outlined in ‘Putting People First’. Furthermore, the LDCs have a key role to play going forward.”
“The Department’s role is to follow up on proposals made in ‘Putting People First’ and we are currently doing that and are in negotiations with the Irish Local Development Network.”
Meanwhile, impending cuts to core budgets are likely to have the greatest impact on LDC employees in the near future.