ICTU warns it will fight 'work for dole' scheme
THE Irish Congress of Trade Unions yesterday warned the Government it will "vigorously oppose" its new work-for-dole scheme if it is not voluntary.
General secretary David Begg said the scheme, which means people drawing the dole will have to work for their benefits may "punish" rather than help participants.
In a letter to Social Protection Minister Eamon O Cuiv, he said a mandatory scheme could "do more harm than good" and asked for an urgent meeting.
The minister announced a pilot scheme last weekend in which 10,000 unemployed people will get €210 a week for 19-and-a-half hours' work.
They will work for non-profit organisations, including after-school and childcare services, sports clubs, services for the elderly and environmental projects.
If they do not show up or miss hours they will lose the dole.
A spokesperson for the minister confirmed that claimants selected for the scheme will be expected to take up job offers, unless they have a reasonable excuse.
However, she said job offers would be made "within reason".
"They will not be asked to take jobs that are blatantly unsuitable or 50 miles away," she said.
"Payments will not be stopped without discussion."
In his letter to the minister, sent on Monday, Mr Begg said he was particularly concerned about reports that unemployed workers will risk losing their social welfare if they do not participate.
"Trade unions will vigorously oppose mandatory participation and 'workfare' schemes that are more about punishing the unemployed than helping them," he warned.