Sunday 19 November 2017

Probe into strikers 'losing benefits'

Willie O’Dea TD. Photo: Tom Burke
Willie O’Dea TD. Photo: Tom Burke
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

The Department of Social Protection is to investigate whether welfare recipients had their payments suspended as a result of taking part in industrial action.

The controversy emerged last month after it was claimed that management in some Tesco stores warned workers they would lose out on Family Income Supplement (FIS) while out on strike.

The strike itself lasted 10 days and affected nine branches.

FIS is paid weekly to low-paid employees with children.

Fianna Fáil's Social Protection spokesperson Willie O'Dea raised the issue after being contacted by Tesco employees who feared they would lose out on the payment.

In correspondence with the Oireachtas Social Protection Committee, seen by the Irish Independent, the department confirmed that no Tesco employee had their payments suspended or terminated.

However, the department's assistant secretary Helen Faughnan said the dispute "brought to light the existence of erroneous information" in relation to the payment on the department's website.

She apologised for the wrong information appearing and said the issue has been rectified.

But significantly, Ms Faughnan said officials will investigate whether other cases have occurred in which workers had payments suspended.

"The department is reviewing available records to see if it can be established whether, in the past, a FIS recipient involved in an industrial dispute has had their payment suspended and will take any necessary corrective action," she said.

Speaking last night, Mr O'Dea said it is essential the department and Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar "get to the bottom" of the issue.

"I want to know as well whether the department has established the names of companies that are suspected of making such threats to people," the Limerick TD told the Irish Independent last night.

"It is essential we get clarity on this issue. I will be raising it directly with Mr Varadkar."

Irish Independent

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