State must face becoming employer of last resort, union conference told


The State must be willing to contemplate being an “employer of last resort” through local authorities or social employment, the general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions has said.

Speaking at the biennial conference of the Technical, Engineering and Electrical Union (TEEU) in Portlaoise, David Begg said the country could not live indefinitely with the consequences of the social cost of having over 60 per cent of people who are unemployed being long-term unemployed.

“Really if you are prepared to tolerate that what you are really saying is that you are willing to leave aside almost a whole generation of people. As a proposition that is essentially unacceptable. You have to find ways of giving these people back the dignity of work. If you cannot do that through conventional means, you have to try other things.

“One way is to invest in the economy and we have detailed suggestions in relation to infrastructure, but after that we have to find a way to engage people in social employment, using the local authorities or some of the non-governmental organisations.

“There have been suggestions about how to do this around for quite a while but we need a determined effort.

“We need as a nation to target about 100,000 people in employment within the next two to three years if we are to prevent that kind of social problem from arising.”

Responding to Mr Begg’s proposals, Minister for Enterprise and Jobs Richard Bruton said local government had a role in schemes such as the State internship scheme, Job Bridge. He said clearly the public service needed to assist in many of the initiatives that the Government was undertaking.

“The big challenge for Government is to create the drive for change in our economy, to rebuild our arteries.” He said some of the things Brendan Howlin and Michael Noonan were doing – the creation of New Era, of a strategic investment fund, the rolling out of innovation funds – were positive actions to create the opportunity for employment.