Senior Irish MEPs tonight said they were confident top European officials would sign-off on a multi-million euro handout to support laid-off Dell employees.
After a high-level meeting in Strasbourg, Employment Commissioner Vladimir Spidla said he would look favourably on the Government’s bid for a slice of a €500m EU back-to-work fund.
If agreed, the money would be paid out to help the 1,900 employees facing redundancy at Dell’s Limerick plant.
MEPs Colm Burke of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil’s Brian Crowley both met Mr Spidla to plead the workers’ case and demand EU coffers be opened.
“It is critical that workers about to be laid off by Dell, in Limerick, can gain access to the monies available from the EU,” Mr Burke said.
“I believe the European Commission will free up monies to assist those who will lose their jobs in Dell to look for other jobs, for retraining and up-skilling, in aid for self-employment as well as in temporary special income supplements.
“The Irish Government must now ensure that a detailed application is submitted in a timely fashion as the first lay-offs will occur in April.”
Dell last week confirmed plans to lay off 1,900 workers after the computer firm decided to end PC making at its Limerick plant in favour of a lower-cost operation in Poland.
Mr Crowley said there was a willingness at EU level to make funds available.
“The reality here is that this is something that is impacting not just in Ireland but in other countries in the European Union,” the Fianna Fáil MEP said.
“There is a willingness from the European Union and Commissioner Spidla in particular to respond to this.”
A spokeswoman for Commissioner Spidla said: “The Commission’s first priority would be to to get workers made redundant back into new jobs as quickly as possible.
“He repeated that although he could not of course guarantee anything at this stage and any application would have to meet the criteria set out in the European Globalisation Regulation – the Commission would look favourably on any application for assistance made by the Irish authorities.”
Under the scheme, governments can make applications for emergency funding to help retrain workers who lose their job due to the effects of globalisation.
Business chiefs fear the swingeing cuts at Dell will lead to at least a dozen firms going to the wall and put another 6,000 workers out of work in the mid-west.
The Government is to set-up a high-level taskforce to help the devastated workers find new employment.
Last year, Italy got €35m in aid from the European globalisation fund to help retrain 6,000 textile workers in Sardinia, Piedmont, Lombardy and Tuscany.
In December, Spain received €10.4m to help retrain 1,600 workers made redundant when the American multinational Delphi decided to close a factory in Cadiz.
The fund was launched by the European Union in 2007 and has since helped more then 15,000 workers re-enter the job market.
Under the scheme Governments must come up with 50% of the funding, while the EU provides the other half.
Mr Crowley said the Government is drawing up a submission which they hope to have sent to Brussels within the next fortnight.
Meanwhile trade union officials at collapsed Waterford Wedgewood today met Finance Minister Brian Lenihan and Social Affairs Minister Mary Hanafin about safeguarding pensions.
Last week Waterford Wedgwood called in receivers in a bid to save the loss-making china and crystal firm.
A meeting between Unite and prospective buyers for Waterford Crystal, KPS Capital Partners, will take place tomorrow.