Minister accuses TD of ‘bullying’ which she ‘will not tolerate’ in JobPath row

Doherty defends scheme as English company linked to contract goes into administration

Minister for Employment Affairs Regina Doherty said that without JobPath they would not have 5.3 per cent unemployment which had dropped from 15.7 per cent Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Minister for Employment Affairs Regina Doherty said that without JobPath they would not have 5.3 per cent unemployment which had dropped from 15.7 per cent Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

Minister for Employment Affairs Regina Doherty has accused Independent TD Mattie McGrath of “bullying” which she said she would not tolerate, during sharp exchanges over the controversial jobs activation programme JobPath.

Ms Doherty also defended the programme as TDs raised concerns that an English company Working Time linked to Turas Nua one of the companies contracted to provide the service, had gone into administration in Britain.

The row developed as opposition TDs raised concerns about the contracts awarded to Turas Nua and Seetac worth some €150 million in total.

A number of TDs complained of coercion and manipulation of job seekers into programmes.

But Mr McGrath claimed Fine Gael were now being “so arrogant that they won’t listen to this House”, which had voted in a private member’s motion to end the JobPath programme.

He said Fine Gael were “bully boys” as he dismissed the Minister’s suggestions that there had been few complaints about the service.

Independent TD Mattie McGrath has claimed Fine Gael were now being ‘so arrogant that they won’t listen to this House’ Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times
Independent TD Mattie McGrath has claimed Fine Gael were now being ‘so arrogant that they won’t listen to this House’ Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

He said that he had received “countless complaints about the awful experiences” people had with the service.

“I describe Turas Nua as Turas uafásach, an awful journey.”

He said that “people with poor communications and poor literacy skills are being forced and coerced into these offices and being humiliated and degraded”.

The Tipperary TD said the Government should “respect the people on these schemes, not bulldoze them and bully them. You’re back to the heavy days of the blue shirts again, nothing short of it.”

The Minister rounded on him and said that every time he spoke in the chamber “whether to insult me or belittle or insult anyone else you do yourself no favours”.

Ms Doherty added that “belittling me or making me look foolish or silly is not funny”.

“It’s tantamount to bullying and I will not accept it or tolerate it from you anymore. If you have a question to ask if you ask it respectfully I will respectfully reply.”

‘Very careful dealing’

People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith said that English company Working Links which owned 50 per cent of the money given over by the State to Turas Nua, had gone into administration.

She noted the comments of the British chief inspector that the company was inadequate, its professional ethics were compromised and “immutable lines crossed because of business imperatives”.

A new contract to start in 2020 is currently under consideration by the Government and Ms Smith asked if the Government was going to re-contract to Turas Nua and Seetac.

Sinn Féin spokesman John Brady asked how the Government could consider the project value for money when of the 41,000 full-time jobs that the Minister said had been found only 11,334 were sustained in employment for 12 months or more. He said that 206,000 people had been referred but the numbers in employment were “ludicrously low”.

Fianna Fáil spokesman Willie O’Dea referring to the company going into administration warned the Government to be “very, very careful dealing with this organisation because this is the culmination of a long line of complaints about suspected fraud on the part of that company”.

Ms Doherty insisted however that the Government’s contract was with Turas Nua, which had been in constant contact over the last number of weeks in relation to Working Time.

She said that without JobPath they would not have 5.3 per cent unemployment which had dropped from 15.7 per cent.

She said her job was to honour the contracts the Government had entered into with the two companies to assist with the 195,000 currently unemployed. She said that if there were any changes to existing contracts the State would be significantly exposed financially.