A TEAM of EU experts is travelling to Ireland next week to investigate complaints from former Dell workers about the way the €15 million fund to help them is being used.
The money must be spent by June next year but so far only €3m has been spent retraining or providing job opportunities for the 2,400 workers made redundant.
Many of them are finding it impossible to access the fund and are being either pushed into courses they do not want or are being tied up in red tape, according to workers’ representatives Gerry Hickey and Tony O’Shea.
Petty rules and regulations are being placed in their way and leading to many people getting frustrated and opting to remain on the dole rather than avail of the fund.
People have been told they will lose their mortgage protection contribution if they start a training course – even if it is just part-time, they said.
University fees will be paid up-front to cover any course, but most of the workers are unskilled or with low skills, and a university course is not what they need. They are guaranteed the full fees even if they drop out before the end, Mr O’Shea said.
On the other hand, 27 people wanted to attend a two-year course in Griffith College but were told the fees would not be paid until they had completed the course.
“This is nonsense as in two years’ time the fund will be wound up and there will be no money available, even if the college was willing to take students without fees up-front”, said Mr O’Shea.
Of 251 people who applied to set up their own businesses, only 57 have been approved so far. Applicants are being turned down for funding for petty reasons, such as if they include a business partner who is not covered by the scheme, Mr Hickey said.
They say no official process is in place, with people being told they are eligible for the EU funding when they are not and vice versa. “We run an office to help on a voluntary basis, in premises lent to us, to try to help workers because the whole Government operation surrounding this fund is a shambles,” said Mr O’Shea.
Labour MEP Alan Kelly said it appeared the fund was being used to provide income for state bodies like Fás rather than to help workers.
A spokesperson for EU Commissioner Lazslo Andor, who met the workers said his staff are planning a visit soon to Dublin and Limerick. The workers have asked for a detailed audit to be undertaken of the way the money is being handled and spent. The Commission said it will investigate before making a decision.
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