Disabled Rehab workers faced with redundancy

Eighteen workers in the Rehab Group, many of them with disabilities, are to be made redundant next month in a selection process which Siptu claims takes no account of their disabilities.

The union has called on Rehab to suspend the redundancies until a working group of business, community and religious leaders attempt to access further contracts for the Galway recycling plant.

Labour TD Colm Keaveney has written to Joan Burton, social protection minister, requesting that she intervene in the plan.

“As you know, Rehab are in receipt of significant funding from Fás, the HSE, and the Department of Education,” Mr Keaveney wrote.

“It is simply not acceptable that an organisation in receipt of significant state funds should conduct their industrial relations below a standard that would be deemed acceptable in the state or semi-state sector.”

The hourly rate of pay for staff with disabilities at the facility is €9.09, of which €5.05 is covered by the wage subsidy scheme, a programme run by Fás to subsidise the employment of people with disabilities. The cost to Rehab is €4.04, plus pension costs.

The redundancies at the plant are deemed necessary in response to what Rehab is calling “poor market conditions”.

The plant is run by Rehab Enterprises, a subsidiary of the Rehab Group.

In correspondence seen by the Irish Examiner, the divisional human resources manager of the group, Niamh Byrne, said, “18 staff out of a total of 44 will be dismissed by reason of redundancy by the end of Mar 2012”.

She went on to outline the criteria by which the candidates for redundancy will be selected, including “productivity, teamwork and communications, attendance and punctuality, disciplinary records”.

Siptu has asked for a stay of three months to be put on the redundancies to set up the working group and attempt to access other recycling markets.

The union has also asked that the accounts of Rehab be opened in order to make an assessment on the merits of the redundancy plans.

“The focus in Galway is to find a way to secure the employment for these vulnerable workers by sourcing demand for Rehab locating through Working Group,” Mr Keaveney wrote in his letter to Ms Burton.

“Some of these employees have been working for Rehab for up to 10 years and it is their whole life.”

A statement from Rehab pointed out that the plant in Galway had been loss-making for the last three years.

“This action is necessary due to the economic downturn and poor market conditions.” the statement said. “Rehab Enterprises will provide all staff affected with a redundancy package, which exceeds the specific industry norms.”

The Rehab Group is an independent not-for-profit organisation which advertises itself as working “for social and economic inclusion among people with disabilities and others”.

It employs around 3,500 people in four countries. In 2010, the last year for which complete figures are available, the group had an income, including charitable donations, of €187m, of which €54.4m came from various state bodies. The group recorded a net surplus of €2.3m, up from €1.9m the previous year. Net assets in the same period increased from €51m to €56m.

Last year, the group chief executive Angela Kerins was paid a basic salary of €236,000, by far the largest at any of the state’s not-for-profit organisations.

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