Taoiseach: Picketing constituency office is unfair on staff

Mr Martin’s remarks came after members of the SIPTU and Fórsa unions picketed his constituency office on Evergreen Road last week over what they have described as growing concerns about the future of up to 400 jobs in Local Employment Service and Job Club offices across the country.
Taoiseach: Picketing constituency office is unfair on staff

TAOISEACH Micheál Martin has said picketing of his constituency office is “not very fair” on those working there. Pic: Julien Behal

TAOISEACH Micheál Martin has said picketing of his constituency office is “not very fair” on those working there.

Mr Martin’s remarks came after members of the SIPTU and Fórsa unions picketed his constituency office on Evergreen Road last week over what they have described as growing concerns about the future of up to 400 jobs in Local Employment Service and Job Club offices across the country.

The Government is in the process of replacing the current Local Employment Centres and Job Clubs with a new model of Regional Employment Services, and, as part of this, community-led Local Employment Services must compete in open requests for tender against private operators.

The unions said they intend to hold weekly pickets of Mr Martin’s constituency until the Taoiseach intervenes in the dispute.

Speaking to The Echo, Mr Martin said he believed the issue should be resolved by dialogue.

“That’s a matter that has to be resolved between the department and the unions representing the workers,” Mr Martin said.

“I do believe, more generally, a lot of people picket the constituency office, not very fair on the workers there, and maybe the unions would take notice.”

The Taoiseach said there was a legal obligation on the Department of Social Protection to put services out to tender.

“I am aware that there are some centres that have unique qualities, in terms of their location, their outreach to community and so on, but it’s not a simple black and white either, and there has been a lot of engagement between the unions and the minister, Heather Humphreys,” Mr Martin said.

SIPTU has said an intervention by the Taoiseach is needed due to what it called “the refusal of the Department of Social Protection to engage in an exploratory talks process, as proposed by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), aimed at resolving the dispute”.

When asked by The Echo about the Department not engaging the WRC, the Taoiseach said: “Well there has been engagement, this is my understanding, but we’ll check that again”.

A spokesperson for the Department of Social Protection said: 

“The WRC is a forum for resolving employment issues that arise between an employer and their employees. However, the Department of Social Protection is not a party to any related industrial dispute with any of its contractors or their respective staff.”

The Department spokesperson said it has offered to provide the WRC with any information or clarifications it wishes in relation to this issue. The spokesperson added that the Department is legally obliged to procure its contracted employment services in an open and competitive manner.

“To deliver on its legal obligations and to expand quality employment service provision across the entire State, the Department … has engaged extensively with stakeholders, including SIPTU,” the spokesperson said.

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