THE only employment centre in Ireland’s second biggest jobs blackspot is in danger of closing on Friday due to a funding shortfall, just days after the Government’s jobs initiative.
The Irish Examiner has learned that the Employment Resource Centre, in the heart of Cork city, is struggling to stay open due to Fás funding cutbacks.
The centre, which employs 15 people, has been open since 1988 and provides financial and career support for the near-50,000 people who are unemployed in Cork, the second-largest jobs blackspot in Ireland.
However, it has emerged that Fás is planning to cut back on funding for eight previously budgeted-for community employment (CE) posts, with a decision to be made on the matter this week.
If this occurs, workers at the centre have claimed they will no longer be able to cover overheads and other associated costs.
It is understood that all staff at the centre were given protective notice last Thursday.
Management explained that financial support for just 15 positions has been made available by Fás from Friday, and that as a result it was not possible for the centre to continue to meet its overheads.
The staff have been asked to attend a meeting with Fás officials later this week to discuss the matter.
It is understood that talks are continuing on the possibility of raising the planned funding levels to still include the eight additional posts, giving the unemployment centre breathing space over the coming weeks.
However, sources close to the negotiations have confirmed that senior officials are still likely to propose funding levels for just 15 people, meaning the centre could cease operating when its current contract runs out on Friday.
The news comes as the Fine Gael-Labour Government announces its much-vaunted “jobs initiative” later today.
The scheme is being proposed to help create a further 5,000 graduate internships and 20,000 back-to- education placements.
It will be funded through a controversial €500 a year levy on private pensions.
The current unemployment rate stands at 14.6%, a full 10% higher than the months before the economic crisis began.
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