Above: The Seetec office located beside The Seventeen Shops in Cabra. Let us know if you have any experience of Job Path and other “labour activation” schemes via this survey.
Irish cinema goers and fans of Ken Loach have been left gasping with horror at the austerity driven language of “labour activation” in the UK and the awful human impact it has. However, has similar to what the veteran director puts under the spotlight in his emotionally charged Palme D’Or winner I Daniel Blake, already reached our shores?
Like they say, when England sneezes, Ireland catches a cold. Concerns have been raised in the Dail about the programme for government being “copied and pasted from the Tory Party handbook” with the mooted introduction of a “fit to work scheme.” While Loach’s movie was even cited in the wake of the budget as a warning of the direction things are headed.
There’s been a partial radio silence on these copycat moves with Leo Vardkaar left to score brownie points in the media with his announcement that last Friday would be the final day Jobbridge was open to applicants.
Unfortunately, it looks like a case of farewell to Jobbridge, hello to UK style policies like JobPath. The closure of the derided internship scheme was accompanied by an Indecon report, which despite recommending proper payment and shorter hours for future schemes, let Joan Burton’s placement programme off scot-free.
This all lead lovely Leo to conclude that:
“Although it was far from perfect, looked at in the round, it was a real success.”
Really? Jobsbridge was one of the first topics we got our teeth into here in rabble. We featured it on our first front cover and documented the scheme from a first hand perspective by talking to early participants.
Leo says Jobbridge “done the job it was asked to do” in assisting people to find work. Similar claims were made by Indecon in its previous reports, but were publicly disputed in high profile scrutiny by Maynooth’s Dr. Mary Murphy on behalf of Impact back in 2015.
Already there are murmurs of a new scheme to replace Jobbridge. There’s talk of the minimum wage, better training and supervision. And already there is resistance with the Small Firms Association bearing its teeth against any notion employers might pay contributions to the labour they will benefit from.
Leo says “the new scheme must learn from the mistakes of the past.”
We’ll just have to wait and see on that.
Whatever about the notoriety of Jobbridge, there are already other schemes in operation that escape the same media glare. Worryingly, rather than represent progressive reforms these constitute a rather grim expansion of the “activation” ideology ushered in across the pond in the UK.
Firstly, there’s Gateway. Gateway has been in operation since 2013 and sees selected participants put to work on tasks that will “benefit the local area” for 19.5 hours a week, across 22 months for a scabby €22.50 top up.
Listed roles include the control of animals and “Brown Field Site Remediation.” Sounds rather grim to be fair. There has been protest over the lack of training on a Gateway in Ballymount with participants describing the daily repetition as “soul-destroying.”
Then there’s Tús, which has been around for a while and sees people “allocated to community and voluntary organisations.” It’s similar to the Community Employment scheme, but features the stick of sanctions and the lottery of random selection.
The latest iniative is Job Path. In rabble, a chunk of anecdotal experience about this is coming our way from folks randomly selected by the Department Of Social Protection. People are getting letters with thinly veiled threats about payment reduction and being sucked into compulsory sessions that consist of little more than being made sat and spam employers online with their CVs. People discuss their experiences of Job Path in various corners of the internet but nothing cohesive seems published about it.
Most worryingly, the operation of Job Path in Ireland has been farmed out to private entities like Turas Nua, a joint venture between Ireland’s FRS Recruitment and the UK’s Working Links. Seetec are also involved, an organisation that has been at the centre of disturbing whistle blowing allegations in the UK. Back in July it was reported that dear Varadkar was referring 60,000 people to JobPath.
We intend to work on an extended piece that examines these existing schemes, profiles the new private operators and critically looks at this whole new labour “activation” push.
If there’s anyone out there who has direct with experience with any of these schemes, we’d like to hear your stories.