Siptu protests against ‘Government privatising employment services’

Department issues tender request to increase dedicated resources, it says

The union is calling for a halt to what it describes as moves to allow private companies to bid, as part of a tender process, for State contracts. File photograph: Bryan O’Brien

The union is calling for a halt to what it describes as moves to allow private companies to bid, as part of a tender process, for State contracts. File photograph: Bryan O’Brien

 

The trade union Siptu has claimed that the Government is seeking the privatisation of local employment services.

The union on Friday staged a protest outside the Department of Social Protection in Dublin city centre.

The union started a campaign calling for an immediate halt to what it described as moves to allow private companies to bid, as part of a tender process, for State contracts to run programmes to assist people getting back into the workforce.

The Department of Social Protection said as part of its economic stimulus plan the Government had committed to increasing resources dedicated to the delivery of employment services both within its own Intreo service, and to expand the coverage of the local employment services to areas not currently covered by existing providers.

“The department has already increased its own complement of case officer staff and has issued a request for tender [RFT] to expand local employment services in some regions where there is currently no local employment service.

“The RFT places due emphasis on the quality of services to be provided, while expanding the capacity of the public employment service. This RFT, which is required to comply with EU procurement rules, has no impact on the contracts of existing providers in other areas and local community and voluntary organisations were encouraged to respond to the RFT,” the department said.

Community organisations

Siptu public administration and community division organiser, Adrian Kane, said: “It is time to call the Government out. If these tendering processes proceed as planned it will lead to the wholesale privatisation of local employment services. This will see the forcing out of the effective community-based non-profit providers of local employment services.”

The union had previously argued that the Government tender for the expansion of local employment services could put in jeopardy about 300 jobs in existing community organisations .

The staff work in job clubs and other local services, assisting unemployed people with supports ranging from literacy to interview skills to job placements. While the services are funded by the Department of Social Protection, employees of these providers are not public servants.

Speaking at the protest Mary Oakley, a leader at Portarlington job club in Co Laois, said: “It’s not viable for us to go into a tendering process, we don’t have the financial resources, we’ve been basically excluded for going for our own jobs.”

“The problem is that the same service will not be met going forward, we’re really part of the community, we’re really client focused and provide a real wrap-around service.”

‘Commodification’

“I believe that the new tendering process excludes a lot of people, it’s about the commodification of unemployed people and it is about a contract bid process, it is very much about profit rather than having an understanding of the needs of the client.”

The Department of Social Protection said separately, the current contracts for all contracted public employment service would expire at the end of 2021 and it was, “ therefore, developing RFTs to ensure that renewed services are procured in a manner that is compatible with EU and national procurement rules”.

“Current service providers are free to tender for new contracts for employment services and are encouraged to do so by the department. The procurement process places a strong emphasis on the quality of services to be provided and it is expected that the current providers will be in a strong position to respond to the RFTs.”