Wednesday 22 November 2017

Extra €20 to work in community schemes is 'slave labour' – O'Keeffe

Cllr Kevin O’Keeffe
Cllr Kevin O’Keeffe

A Cork councillor has branded plans to pay dole recipients an extra €20 a week to work in community schemes as "slave labour by a right wing government."

Cllr Kevin O'Keeffe (FF) told Cork County Council that the Gateway Scheme was being introduced at a time when the local authority was losing outdoor staff, and urged the council to call on the "right wing government" to reconsider the programme that was "introducing slave labour through a back-door initiative."

Cllr O'Keeffe (FF) made his comments on Monday in reaction to news that the Department of Social Protection is to direct 110 people on the live register to work with the council for 22 weeks, as part fo the Gateway project, or have their benefits reduced.

He claimed the only extra money these people would get for working with the council for 17.5 hours a week was €20 in travel expenses.

Acting county manager Declan Daly confirmed that the council would be taking on 110 people.

"This is a nationwide scheme which involves local authorities and the Department of Social Protection," said Mr Daly.

He said there was no question of Gateway workers displacing any council staff, and further confirmed that less than half of the Gateway workers would be used for working on roads.

He said the scheme would allow the council to carry out a number of jobs it couldn't do in recent years due a decrease in its workforce.

Reacting to Cllr O'Keeffe's comments, Cllr Kevin Murphy, Fine Gael's leader on the local authority, said that he welcomed the scheme "with open arms" and Cllr O'Keeffe was "knocking a positive initiative".

Party colleague Cllr Noel O'Donovan was equally critical of Cllr O'Keeffe.

"The headline that should go from this meeting is that Fianna Fáil is anti-jobs," he said.

Cllr Frank O'Flynn (FF) said that he welcomed the broad aims of the scheme, leading Cllr Tim Lombard (FG) to suggest that there was a split within Fianna Fáil on the matter.

"I am shocked by Cllr O'Keeffe's unfortunate contribution," he said.

"Cllr O'Flynn's contribution shows why no one knows what they [Fianna Fáil] stand for."

Cllr Lombard further described criticism of the scheme as "mind-boggling" and called on Cllr O'Keeffe to withdraw his comments.


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