Dell workers protest EU funding restrictions

UP to 200 former Dell workers yesterday picketed an office scheduled to distribute EU funding for retraining programmes.

The mainly Limerick workforce say they are unhappy with the way the funding will be allocated.

A near €23 million European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF) is available to the former workers to upskill, retrain, seek further education or set up their own enterprises.

Denis Ryan, chairman of the Dell Redundant Workers’ Association, said many were frustrated at the lack of progress in accessing the fund.

Speaking at a protest outside the EGF office in Michael Street in Limerick, Mr Ryan said they are concerned workers may lose social welfare entitlements if they choose to do a course in a privately run college rather than seek educational courses through a state agency.

Mr Ryan said: “A lot of our members are coming to us saying they are having terrible problems in relation to their social welfare entitlements. If they want to do a private course, Fás is telling them they have to go to a public college and, if they do this, their social welfare entitlements will not be affected.”

Up to 2,000 workers lost their jobs at Dell and many others at companies which supplied or serviced the computer firm.

Colleges of technology and other third-level institutions have devised special modules to suit the needs of the workers.

Mr Ryan said: “In our discussions with the new EGF office, opened here in Limerick by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, and administered by Fás, a number of issues have arisen which we believe are restricting people’s choices in moving forward. In particular, we insist that the funds remain flexible in their administration.

“Already the former Dell workers’ choices of college for retraining, as well as social welfare entitlements, are being affected. We want Minister of State Dara Calleary and the EGF administrator in Limerick, David Smith, to clarify these issues so people who have been affected by Dell and other company closures can access the EGF fund in a flexible, proactive manner. We want this sorted out in a speedy and efficient way to benefit all workers.”

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