EU offers €2.6m for TalkTalk workers

A total of €2.6m has been offered to the Government by the EU to help put 432 redundant workers from call centre, TalkTalk, back to work.

The sum brings the total money from the EU’s globalisation fund to Ireland to €60.6m over the past three years for over 10,000 workers laid off from businesses and construction sites.

The Waterford-based call centre shut down last year when the firm transferred the business to three plants outside the EU, leaving 592 people without work.

The Government must match the funds, bringing the total to over €5m.

The money is being used to give new skills and education to the workers, whose average age was 27. There will also be funds to help them set up small businesses and provide guidance about what areas best match their skills and talents.

Welcoming the payout, Sean Kelly MEP said: “Of the total number of 592 TalkTalk employees, 432 are targeted for assistance under the EGF funds.

“The package aims to help the workers by offering them guidance and career planning, several types of training programmes, higher education courses, training grants, enterprise/self-employment supports, along with training, education, and enterprise allowances.”

The globalisation fund was set up by the European Commission six years ago as a reaction to companies relocating to countries outside the EU, and was revised in 2009 to take account of lay-offs from the recession.

Ireland has been one of the major beneficiaries from the fund although the first allocation, of €14.8m for some 2,400 Dell workers in Limerick, was controversial, with people complaining of the red tape and petty rules put in place by the Government which prevented many people availing of the help.

A study of several cases in the EU earlier this year showed only a fifth of them found work and money had to be returned unspent. Similar programmes in other countries were three times more successful.

Announcing the payout yesterday, employment commissioner László Andor said, “This fund is an effective tool in supporting workers laid off as a result of globalisation and in cases of lay-offs resulting from the economic crisis. The commission calls on the member states to ensure that the EGF continues to be available for the next programming period 2014-2020.”

Since Sept 2009, as well as the Dell programme, €2.75m was given to help retrain 650 workers made redundant by Waterford Crystal and three of its suppliers; €7.4m to help retrain 850 aircraft maintenance workers made redundant by SR Technics Ireland Ltd; and €35.7m for construction workers.

Other payments made yesterday were to France, the Netherlands, Spain, and Sweden totalling €25.3m to help 4,722 workers from car manufacturing plants, construction, aluminium and the pharmaceutical industry.

However there is a question mark over whether the fund will continue as it is threatened by cuts to the EU’s seven-year budget currently being negotiated.

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