Cork County Council has managed to convince the Government to lift a recruitment embargo to fill senior positions on the local authority — but did not manage to do the same for frontline outdoor workers.
Since 2010, the council has been able to persuade the Department of Environment to lift the embargo to fill two divisional manager vacancies, appoint a county engineer, county solicitor, chief veterinary officer and financial accountant.
In addition, it was also allowed to appoint two Civil Defence officers.
The information was obtained from council officials by Cllr Melissa Mullane (SF) who said she was concerned no efforts had been made to recruit outdoor staff to carry out such functions as road repairs and gully clearing among other tasks.
Cllr Mullane compared the appointments to an army top heavy with officers, but not enough troops to actually fight the battle.
The council also managed to get the embargo lifted to appoint seven retained firefighters which Cllr Mullane said was acceptable as they are very important positions.
“Of course, I recognise that the senior positions are necessary, but so too are the maintenance positions, labourers, clerical and general operatives.”
She plans to table a motion at the next full council meeting to find out what efforts, if any, had been made to have the recruitment embargo lifted to employ “frontline staff”.
Cllr Mullane, along with other councillors, claim to be concerned about “cheap labour” Gateway workers being used to plug the gap in frontline staff where, in fact, it was time the Government recognised permanent, full-time jobs needed to be created in local authorities.
The number of outdoor staff on the council’s books fell significantly since the embargo was introduced in 2009.
When staff retire they are not being replaced and the level of sickness was noticeably higher among outdoor staff because of the weather conditions they endure.
Councillors have called on management not to recruit people through the Gateway scheme unless they voluntarily seek to work for the local authority.
The Government has set a target of signing up to 3,000 Gateway applicants with local authorities by the year end. A total of 215 have been allocated to Cork County Council.
The Department of Social Protection makes it compulsory for people to join the schemes and if they decline they will lose benefits.
A number have already been employed by the council and more are to follow.
They are providing general maintenance and assistance in restoration work at Fort Meagher (Fort Camden) in Crosshaven and landscape maintenance and improvements in the grounds of Mallow Castle.
Cllr Mullane said these people are plugging the gaps, as are community groups such as Tidy Towns and while the involvement of voluntary organisations was welcome it’s no substitute for having council workers on the ground.
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