Community Employment schemes provide a vital service by helping people who are long term unemployed to get back into part time work in their community.
But the supervisors who help organise these schemes are not entitled to a pension. This is despite the fact that the Labour Court made a recommendation for a pension, a full eleven years ago.
Since that occurred, three government have refused to implement this and have refused workers their basic rights. These governments contained Ministers from Fine Gael, Fianna Fail, Labour and the Green Party. As a result each year, between 30 and 40 of the Community Employment supervisors retire from their jobs – without an occupational pension.
The attack on workers’ pension rights has become a general pattern in recent years. Only a third of workers in the private sector have a pension scheme. Even where they do, there is a major attempt to downgrade them. Irish Life and Pfizer workers, for example, face moves by their companies to push them off a defined benefit scheme which guarantees proper pension payment based on years of service.
The current dispute, however, involves the Irish state because it is the Department of Finance that is denying workers their rights. The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection have even written to community employment schemes to seek to identify supervisors who are taking industrial action. In an oblique warning, they even hint that funding will be reviewed in the light of the industrial action.
This intimidation must be faced down. The best way to do this is for CE workers and their union to mobilise local communities in support. Their union, SIPTU and Forsa, should be encouraging others to join in solidarity action with them.