East Cork Council Staff Strike Over Reduced Staff Numbers

By Seamus Whelehan

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SIPTU members of Cork County Council’s Roads Directive and Drivers in Cobh, Youghal and Glanmire went on strike for 4 hours on Tuesday 27 June over an ongoing dispute with Council management.
The stoppage formed part of a county wide protest over the authority’s refusal to recruit more staff in key sections in Road Maintenance, housing and other critical services.
Con Casey of SIPTU said his members had no option as “the running down of the ability of the Council to adequately provide services would unfortunately seem to be part of an agenda to increase the outsourcing of work to private ‘for profit’ companies.”
The authority’s move is seen to be in contravention of national agreements he said.
“These agreements assert that the high standards of council services should be preserved by maintaining their delivery by directly employed council staff.”
The strike comes following news that none of the 205 staff employed by Cork County Council on the government’s Gateway Scheme have received a full time job.
Mr Conway said the Union were “not in favour of the Gateway scheme from day one.”
The arrangement introduced in 2014 is due to end this August. The scheme was to provide short-term work and training opportunities for the long term unemployed, in the hope it would lead them to full time employment.
Under the programme participants earned €20 a week on top of their job seekers benefit for 19.5hrs work.
In a report to Council on Monday 26 June the authority revealed just 22 people were recruited to temporary positions within the organisation.
The posts included 19 general operatives, with assignment to road, Water services and Environment directorates, 2 Gateway foremen to supervise the 22 month scheme and 1 foreman for roadwork’s.
Cllr Des O’Grady who had requested the report said the scheme amounted to “a form of forced labour.”
He said for many taking up a gateway role it cost them money to go to work as it didn’t cover their travelling costs.
Cllr O’Grady added “if they turned down work or failed to turn up for interview, there were threats and there were cuts and suspensions to welfare payments.”
Under the local authority activation scheme 40 people were employed here in East Cork.
13 were employed by the Cobh Municipal district with 11 posted in Cobh town and 2 in the Glanmire depot.
27 were employed by the East Cork Municipal District, 14 in Youghal and a further 13 in Midleton.
Only 7 Gateway employees remain in the employment of the authority, however their 22 month contract expires this August.
Cllr O’Grady said most of those employed were carrying out general maintenance for the authority and did not receive much training or education.
Those employed on the Cobh Municipal scheme were hired to clean the five-foot way car park, Burma steps and the promenade public park.
They were also employed to clean road signage and footpaths, lawn enhancement and flower bed planting as well as power washing the Lusitania monument.
In Youghal the temporary staff were tasked with filling sand bags, litter picking on Pilmore, Redbarn and Claycastle beaches and clearing vegetation in Dangan Cemetery.
While in Midleton Gateway workers were employed for similar tasks.
Cllr Kieran McCarthy said he was always opposed to the plan and said the vast majority of people had taken up a position in the hope of gaining full time employment.
While Cllr Joe Carroll stated he “never agreed or supported the scheme” because it was “very degrading on workers who had to be lured into the programme for €20 a week was a desperate insult.”
When asked if there was a chance these Gateway workers could gain full time positions in the organisation, Mr Lucey declined to answer.
The Chief Executive said he was unable to comment as discussions with the unions over work flow plans were at “a sensitive stage.”

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