Coalition rift over plan to force firms to hire jobless
Labour Party plans to impose quotas on private firms who win State contracts to hire unemployed people rather than those already in employment have been blocked repeatedly at the cabinet table, the Sunday Independent has learnt.
It has been confirmed that the Government has been locked in a long internal battle over the issue, with Social Protection Minister Joan Burton adamant that companies winning contracts from the State must "play their part" in reducing the numbers on the Live Register instead of simply hiring people who are already in jobs.
"There is a certain amount of heel-dragging by the Fine Gaelers, but this is an important one for us, so we are continuing to fight," said one senior Labour source.
Under the proposals, a minimum of one in 10 jobs created by taxpayer investment in infrastructure should be ring-fenced for the unemployed.
Initially focused at the public and semi-State sector, the Coalition has sought legal advice on forcing private sector companies that win State contracts to hire people from the dole queues.
Ms Burton is adamant that all Government agencies and departments should consider what impact they could have on the country's "unacceptably high" unemployment figures when filling posts – both permanent and temporary.
This row at Cabinet is particularly pointed given the expected roll of metering relating to Irish Water, which has promised to create 2,000 jobs.
But with major hospital, schools and roads projects pending, Ms Burton thinks it is vital that the jobless are given a better chance to find work – and she believes this can be done by inserting a clause into tender contracts that a quota of unemployed people must be hired as part of the terms and conditions.
The Department of Social Protection officials say private sector employers are often "pleasantly surprised" by the qualifications of people on the Live Register.
Recent statistics show that the unemployed include 17 per cent from a managerial background, 24 per cent from a professional and technical background and 13 per cent from a clerical and administrative background.