DETAILS of a controversial scheme to pay long-term unemployed people just €20 extra a week in benefits for working for almost 20 hours have been unveiled.
Around 800 unemployed people will be selected in Dublin to work for local authorities and will be expected to work 19.5 hours a week under the Government's Gateway Initiative.
They will receive around €1 per hour on top of their weekly benefits payment.
In all, 3,000 long-term unemployed people will be selected to work for councils around the country for two years.
Dara Calleary, Fianna Fail's spokesman on jobs, said: "On the face of it, this 'initiative' sounds more like a two-year community-service sentence, where people are forced to work for the local authorities virtually for free, or else be forced off the dole. "The Department of Social Protection selects the 800 workers and it seems they will have no choice but to participate."
A Department for the Environment spokesperson said the positions would include working on landscaping and public parks and computer work.
Others will be given roles as "street ambassadors" to help tourists. Drainage schemes, library work and outdoor maintenance jobs will also be included.
Those selected by the Department of Social Protection could face having their social welfare payments reduced or eliminated if they refuse to co-operate.
Dublin City Council will take on 295 workers, Fingal Council and South Dublin 215, and Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown Council will take on 110 jobseekers.
Mr Calleary said: "While I strongly believe we need more training and work placements to help get people off the Live Register, this bears all the hallmarks of another populist headline rather than a useful initiative that will actually get people back to work."
He asked: "Will there be any effort to match people's skills with the work placements?
"Will there be any opt-out for jobseekers whose skills bear no resemblance to work involved and who therefore do not stand to benefit at all?"
He claimed the Government might use the scheme to drive down the Live Register figures and give the impression more people were back at work.
"This cannot be purely an exercise in optics.
"It must be, a real effort to train jobseekers and provide them with real opportunities to get them back to the workplace," he said.
The initiative has been agreed with unions, and is designed to support councils in meeting local demands for improvements.