Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Threat to community services as The Department of Education procrastinates.

As a direct failure of the Department of Education to honour its commitment to pay rent due to An Droichead in Belfast,  14 workers now face a bleak 2012, with serious consequences for the provision of childcare facilities for local children and parents from the South and East Belfast area. The lackadaisical approach of the Department also puts into question the preschool needs of the adjacent school.

An Droichead was founded in 1992 and provides  local playgroup, preschool and after schools service for the local area.  It has received numerous professional awards over the years for its innovative approach and added services to the local area. It has provided hundreds of thousands of pounds in investment to the local school which operates on its land, but now  faces pressure to moveas the Department of Education has refused to allow payment on the leases.

The organisation is owed the rent for the School for the previous 3 years, and have made on-going efforts to have the Departmentengage with them to resolve the matter.   The non payment of the rent due has resulted in the organisation being forced to consider  placing its employees on protective notice, and these jobs are now at a real risk of being lost.  This organisation also funds a bus service for the school , however it expects to be forced to cease this service before the end of March, due to the non payment of the rent.

Sean Hayes, a Spokesperson for the organisation stated ”we have attempted to resolve this issue by dialogue and agreement, but regrettably it would appear that the people we are engaging with are not prepared to protect the interests of the children in their care. While the jobs are obviously a concern what is of greater concern are the interests of local children’s educational needs which the Department is putting in serious jeopardy.  Our plans for the future include the provision of 50 jobs in the social economy, however this plan cannot go ahead unless we receive the long overdue payments.”

Niall McNally from SIPTU added “we are not prepared to allow the loss of 14 jobs and vital services to the Community.  We are calling upon the Sinn Fein Minister for Education, John O’Dowd to ensure this matter is resolved and these vital services are protected.  We have been in contact with and  are seeking an urgent meeting with the Department and will be insisting this issue be resolved to the satisfaction of the group and concerned parents.  We are not aware of any logical reason as to why this rent has not been paid, and it is not acceptable that vital services are now under threat.”

Thursday, 2 February 2012

SIPTU responds to the draft PfG

The following response to the Draft Programme for Government 2011-15 submitted by SIPTU.  

We will not comment upon each commitment, although the vast majority we welcome such as “invest in social enterprise growth to increase sustainability in the board community sector”  however another such as “press for the devolution of corporation tax and reduce it’s level” are not.  However we are limiting our response to one commitment in the PfG and one omission.

Priority 5: Delivering High Quality and Efficient Public Services.
Social Clause “Include Social Clauses in public procurement contracts for suppliers, services and construction”

SIPTU has welcomed the publication by the Northern Ireland Executive of the Draft Programme for Government 2011-15, and in particular its pledge to “include social clauses in public procurement contracts for supplies, services and construction”. While the term social contract covers a multitude of areas, all of which we also welcome, we are limiting our response to the clauses offering protection of people working for companies or organisations who are funded from the public purse.   In this regard we trust that the provision of a social clause into public procurement contracts will ensure these contracts contain ‘a threshold of decency clause’ in relation to terms and conditions of employment for any organisation employing staff and securing government funding. 

We are aware from contact with our membership and organisations in the Community and Voluntary of growing concerns that Government Departments are seeking ever increasing ‘efficiencies’ from the Sector in funding. Some organisations have regrettably addressed this conundrum by reducing the pay or hours of work of the staff they employ.  This, if not adequately addressed will result in a race to the bottom in the terms and conditions of employment in the sector.  It will also result in the loss of experienced, skilled and committed staff.  This will then lead to a reduction in the quality and level of community and voluntary services.

SIPTU believes the insertion of threshold of decency clauses as a Social Clause will provide organisations with a level playing field to compete for Government contracts based upon the solely upon the quality of service they provide.  We believe workers providing  key services deserve the inclusion of a social clause and the Northern Ireland Executive needs to be applauded for this commitment.  We hope that this commitment when implemented into policy will result in appropriate protection for workers and services provided to the public.

We also seek that these clauses be reviewed periodically by representatives of the Government Departments issuing public procurement contracts, the employers organisations and the trade union representatives.

Peace IV
SIPTU notes that policy makers have many competing demands for commitments to be included in the draft PFG.  We are nevertheless disappointed that a commitment to secure Peace 4 funding was not included in the draft PFG.  Noting the valuable work undertaken by Peace 1,2,and 3 Programmes and also aware that our society requires much more assistance as we attempt to resolve the legacy of the troubles.  We hope the Executive shares our understanding in this regard.