‘No reward’ for Cork County Council’s Gateway employees

Cork County Hall
Cork County Hall

Not one of the 205 people taken on by Cork County Council through the government’s Gateway scheme got permanent employment with the local authority.

A number of councillors expressed their anger at the news after councillor Des O’Grady received a report from council officials on the matter yesterday.

Seven of the Gateway employees are still being used to carry out projects and they are due to complete their 22-month contract with the council in August.

Mr O’Grady said the Government scheme was “a type of forced labour” and that people on social welfare were threatened they would have their benefits cut if they did not sign up to Gateway.

The scheme was introduced by the government in 2014. Local authorities were told they would be allocated Gateway workers.

Mr O’Grady said each person on the scheme was paid €19.50 per week in addition to the dole to take part in the scheme.

He said that, in many cases, this did not even cover their travelling expenses.

The councillor said the report showed that the vast majority of the workers involved were doing maintenance for the council and thus got very little on-the-job training and education.

The report gave a breakdown of where the workers were used in each municipal district and the projects they were involved in.

Many projects included clearing cemeteries and walkways of overgrowth, painting, cleaning road signs, planting flowers, cutting lawns, picking up litter, maintaining playgrounds, and clearing out pipes.

Of the 205 participants, 22 were recruited to temporary positions in the council, mostly working on road and water services maintenance.

Mr O’Grady said the “greatest flaw” of the scheme was that nobody got permanent jobs and the Gateway participants were only plugging gaps that the council should be filling itself.

“It’s very sad to see we haven’t got anybody into permanent work,” said councillor Melissa Mullane said. “It’s soul-destroying to finish a scheme and not have any job out of it.”

Councillor John Paul O’Shea said the Gateway staff had done an amount of work for the council and this was very welcome. He said he was concerned that maintenance will slip because of their absence when the scheme concludes in August.

“I’m very disappointed they can’t get into full-time employment,” said councillor Eoghan Jeffers. “They’ve given some level of service and are not being rewarded. These were yellow pack jobs.”

Councillor Joe Carroll said he never supported the scheme, describing it as “very degrading” and “a desperate insult”.

Council chief executive Tim Lucey said the “Gateway employees were very beneficial to the local authority” and pointed out that it was not a council scheme but a Government one.

When asked if there was any chance the Gateway participants might be taken on full-time by the council in the future, Mr Lucey said he could not comment on that as plans for employment within the organisation were under discussion with the unions. He said these discussions were “at a very sensitive stage” and if agreement was reached it would allow them to recruit further outdoor staff.


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