Gateway scheme is forced labour at €1 an hour Dáil hears

‘So many opportunities for 19.5 hours’ on top of social welfare payment, Taoiseach insists


Taoiseach Enda Kenny has rejected allegations that the Gateway scheme for the long-term unemployed is forced labour, paid at just €1 an hour.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams condemned the scheme in which those on long-term unemployment work 19.5 hours a week for a €20 a week extra added to their jobseeker’s allowance.

Mr Adams said “this scheme forces unemployed people to carry out work for local authorities with threats of cuts or suspensions of welfare payments, even though it pays only a fraction of the minimum wage”.

He said it involved no training or education, with no prospect of long-term employment for those forced to participate. Mr Adams said the local authorities had 3,000 positions to fill and if there were that number “those citizens working in these positions deserve to have proper terms and conditions”.

He said it was “forced labour” and people on the scheme were paid an extra €20 which was taxable and a person with three or four children might end up with less money than before getting involved in the scheme.

The Louth TD also hit out at comments by a Government TD on RTÉ who said Gateway was teaching unemployed people what it was like to get out of bed. He asked if the Taoiseach accepted that “this is adding insult to injury and that it reflects an establishment view that the real problem is not unemployment but the unemployed”.

He claimed the Gateway scheme followed JobBridge, the “failed Government initiative”.

Mr Kenny said it seemed to him as though “Sinn Féin does not want to pay for anything, does not want to have any charge imposed for any service and wants nothing to do with the European scene. From a Sinn Féin perspective, everything in life is free and wonderful. Unfortunately, that is not reality.”

The Taoiseach said it was the “old chicken-and-egg problem” for young people. They could not find a job without experience and they could not get experience without a job.

Mr Kenny disagreed with the Sinn Féin leader’s view of JobBridge and said that while there had been a few cases “in which things might have been better”, he had “so many pieces of correspondence” from young people who were taken on by “firm after firm”. He added that the scheme was being examined by other countries as a model to be replicated.

The Taoiseach insisted “there are so many opportunities out there for 19.5 hours in addition to their social welfare payment”.