Waterford TalkTalk staff to get EU aid

Wed, Oct 24, 2012, 01:00

THE EUROPEAN Parliament has approved €2.7 million in emergency aid for 432 workers who lost their jobs as a result of the closure of the TalkTalk call centre in Waterford last year.

The EU money, part of the Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF), will be matched by the Government, delivering a total support package of €5.4 million.

The money will be used to help the workers upgrade their skills and get back into the labour market.

Some 575 workers lost their jobs when TalkTalk, a broadband provider, and three of its suppliers closed their operations in October last year. A total of 432 were targeted for assistance from the EGF.

The EU money, which has already been approved by the commission and the EU’s Council of Ministers, is part of a €38.2 million package for workers across seven EU countries who have lost their jobs as a result of globalisation.

Independent MEP Marian Harkin yesterday welcomed moves to help the workers, but cautioned that the funds “must give real options to young people if they are to succeed”. Ms Harkin said “this funding can make a real difference to the prospects and employability of these young people, who, through no fault of their own, found themselves without work last year”.

She added that “Ireland has a patchy track record of using EGF funding in the most effective way . . . which ultimately means they cannot benefit fully from the fund”.

The Fine Gael MEP Seán Kelly said the funds would help the workers by providing them with guidance and career planning, training and education, and enterprise grants and supports.

The EGF was established by the EU in 2006 to help workers who have lost their jobs as a result of changing global trade patterns.

There was shock in Waterford at the announcement of the closure of the call centre, which was one of the biggest employers in the southeast.

It was said at the time that there might be positions for about 80 people in England.

TalkTalk in Waterford managed the customer support function for customers based in the UK.

In a statement, the company blamed the increasing use of its online service for the closure, saying the majority of its dealings with customers were now online.

The company grew its contact centre in Waterford from a small operation employing 30 people in 1998 to its status as an award- winning contact centre employing 575 people.

Minister Richard Bruton had spoken at length to the company chief executive and strongly urged the company to continue operations in Waterford.

At the time, Waterford Independent TD John Halligan said: “In the last few years, we’ve sustained the loss of Waterford Crystal and the iron foundry; ABB Transformers closed its plant in 2009, with the loss of 178 jobs; Teva Pharmaceuticals let over 300 workers go in 2009 and earlier this summer GlaxoSmithKline in Dungarvan suffered 130 job losses.”