Mick Wallace So #Biden will start as #Trump left off - continuing to impose 'collective punishment' on the people of #Venezuelahttps://t.co/9gtWc2M5Yw
Mick Wallace #EU wants to talk about Western backed protesters in #HongKong where - unlike #US - police have killed no protester… https://t.co/0NaZRH0LxN
Mick Wallace RT @wallacemick: Very significant amendment for us to win - by just 2 votes - Tax Havens are largely responsible for helping to enshrine po…
Mick Wallace RT @wallacemick: #EU - Latin America gig talked about reducing inequality + overcoming #COVID19. During a pandemic one would expect all cou…

Dáil Diary no 21- 6 March 2015

Low paid, Unsecured Jobs – Government’s vision of the Future…

This week, the Tánaiste told us that the best protection against poverty is well paid work, as she boasted about all the new jobs the Government were creating. But what kind of jobs were they, and how well were they actually paid? The OCED Employment Outlook Report 2014 defines low paying jobs as those for which earnings are below two thirds of a country’s median income. The Report found that 22% of jobs in Ireland are low paid, giving Ireland the second highest level of low paid jobs in the entire OCED area. A 2014 Report by Social Justice Ireland found that 16% of adults who have an income below the poverty line in Ireland are actually employed. We are being fed a lot figures on the “recovery” in this country, but we have the fastest growing child poverty rates in Europe right now, and deprivation rates rising to 26.9%. The Government used their Neo Liberal austerity measures to kill well paid jobs and are replacing them with yellow pack jobs – it’s a race to the bottom, and all the Government spin in the world can’t camouflage it. Here’s my Dáil contribution on the Gateway Scheme yesterday, which is just one of the Government’s versions of slave labour.-

“Under the terms of the Gateway scheme, people who have been on the dole for two years or more are paid an extra €20 per week on top of their jobseeker's allowance for 19.5 hours work with local authorities. However, according to information provided by the Department of Social Protection in 2014, those participating in the scheme who are married or cohabiting with children are liable for PRSI on all income and thus stand to make only €5.50 or less on top of their social welfare payment. Others are even worse off financially as a result of taking up their positions. In the light of the fact that the alternative is that they could lose their welfare payments if they do not take up a Gateway position, does the Tánaiste think this is fair?

Deputy Kevin Humphreys:  Gateway is a Government initiative in local authorities which aims to provide short-term quality and suitable opportunities to improve the employability and maintain the work readiness of those who have been unemployed for 24 months or more. To date, there have been 1,800 participants in the scheme and funding of the order of €22.4 million is being provided by the Department for the initiative.
I want to make it very clear that if a placement is having a negative financial impact on a participant, it is open to the person concerned to inform the Intreo office and seek to be excused from participation on financial grounds. In such cases the Department will work with the person concerned to identify other activation or educational opportunities which may be more appropriate to his or her circumstances.
Employees holding Gateway positions with an income of over €352 per week are liable for class A PRSI contributions, at a rate of 4% on total earnings. These employees are also subject to normal income tax and payroll deductions if their level of earnings brings them into the tax net. As the Deputy is aware, this also applies to employees in the private and public sectors and those engaged in other work placement initiatives such as Tús, community employment schemes and the rural social scheme. Participants in employment schemes who pay class A PRSI contributions can establish entitlement to the full range of short-term benefits, including jobseeker’s benefit, illness benefit and maternity benefit, and long-term benefits, including the contributory State pension.

Mick Wallace:  I was contacted recently by a man called Colin Boardman, who is caught in a predicament. He has been working on the Gateway scheme since July 2014. Having worked for nine years prior to becoming unemployed and unable to find work despite his best efforts, he is currently one of eight people working 19.5 hours a week picking up pieces of paper on a beach for Fingal County Council. Before starting the Gateway scheme, his social welfare entitlements amounted to €392 a week, as he is living with his partner and two children. Now that he is working on the Gateway scheme, instead of being €20 better off as promised by the Government, his family situation makes him liable to tax and PRSI which amounts to €30, meaning that he is €12 worse off than he was. He has complained, but he has got nowhere with it. These schemes are supposed to be about training people and preparing them for work and for jobs, making them more employable. Is he going to become more employable picking up papers on a beach and losing money in the process rather than being on his welfare payment?

Deputy Kevin Humphreys:  I have visited Gateway schemes because I wanted to talk to people who are doing practical work on the ground about how they are experiencing it. The response was very positive. Those involved told me how they were transforming a park in River Valley into a true community facility. It also keeps people very close to the workforce. The 19.5 hour working week allows participants to work part-time without losing benefits, which is an option that many people, especially within the Tús programme, have taken advantage of, working part-time when they are on the programme and then being able to move into employment. If there is a problem with that, I am happy to take up the individual case the Deputy mentioned, but I will return to what I said earlier. If placement is having a negative financial impact on the participant, it is open to the person to inform their Intreo office and seek to be excused from participation on financial grounds. If Deputy Wallace is experiencing something different, I would be happy to take that up.

Mick Wallace:  I will pass that on to the gentleman concerned. Ireland has the second-highest rate of low pay in the OECD. Schemes like this are making life very difficult for people. While it is not possible to find jobs for everybody, surely it would make more sense, if there was merit in the jobs that are on offer, to give them proper full time jobs. It would also put more money into the economy if these people had more to spend, as people on low incomes are more likely to spend all their money. These people are being asked to work for practically nothing. If one has to get to work and buy lunch, one will have nothing left, even if one is not paying PRSI.

We have heard a great deal about the work figures of late but in Wexford the unemployment figures have gone up for the last two months, December ‘14 and January ‘15. Over 16,000 people in Wexford are unemployed, it must be one of the highest rates in the country. I was just looking at the figures from Enterprise Ireland and the IDA. There were only 98 IDA-related net full-time jobs created in Wexford in the last four years and 242 net jobs related to Enterprise Ireland. How in God's name is Wexford such a blackspot for employment? The number of people unemployed, 16,000, means that the unemployment rate in Wexford is much closer to 20% than the national average of 10%.”

Mick Wallace.

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