Thursday, 8 December 2005
Jerry Cowley (Mayo, Independent)
I am grateful to the Ceann Comhairle for the opportunity to raise this important matter on the Adjournment debate. I ask the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture and Food to intervene to save the jobs of 100 people who work or, I should say, used to work, in his Department in Davitt House, County Mayo, who are being forced to move to Portlaoise or deploy to alternative employment in the Garda's PULSE system. However, these are no substitutes for their former jobs. It beggars belief that people already decentralised to County Mayo are now being forced to transfer to Portlaoise. The Government constantly raises the importance of decentralisation but this group, which is already decentralised, is being forced to return to the centre. It is a desperate, difficult and scandalous situation.
The alternative employment being offered in County Mayo represents no choice because it is completely different and involves shift work. People are being offered 25% extra as an incentive to move to shift work, but that is a poor substitute for the loss of existing terms and conditions, which is what this amounts to. The other option is to work as a driver tester, but that is a laugh because, even after spending six weeks in training in Dublin, the contract will end in 18 months.
Morale is at an all time low in Davitt House in Castlebar, County Mayo, and justice demands that the Minister intervenes immediately in this terrible situation. Of the 100 people concerned, 16 have opted for the PULSE system but they will be working shifts which include weekends and nights. The incentive is 25%, whereas 40% can be earned in the private sector. It is certainly not an equal situation and, in addition, they are losing their terms and conditions.
While people are being forced to think about transferring to Portlaoise, many will not go. People will lose their jobs in County Mayo, which will be to Portlaoise's gain because 80 temporary people will have to be employed there to substitute for the work of the Castlebar staff. That sounds like a recentralisation rather than a decentralisation programme. With 16 people having undergone PULSE training, 84 are left in this desperate situation. While decentralisation has been a disaster, it does not make sense to take the people concerned from County Mayo when they are willing and prepared to work there.
County Mayo has suffered greatly. The mid-term review of the national development plan revealed underspending in the county. The county airport is seeking €15 million for the years 2005-07. We are being left without these resources. The western corridor has a deficit in spending of €200 million, although all we needed was €365. People are talking about these matters. Agriculture is winding down and industrial jobs are going to China and elsewhere. The few jobs we have as a result of decentralisation are also being taken away.
I ask the Minister of State to address the issue because, even after today's budget, the situation in County Mayo has not improved. My area continues to lack an ambulance base, despite the minimum requirement of a base every 20 miles. The other night, my colleague, a GP, had difficulties in finding an ambulance for a man whose eyes had all but burned out of his head. However, he could not locate one because only two ambulances are available for the entire county. It is the third largest county in Ireland, with a population of 120,000, yet this doctor could not find an ambulance in a hurry. The patient concerned had to travel from County Mayo because there is no eye unit in Mayo General Hospital.
I ask the Minister of State to intervene in the situation concerning the Department of Agriculture and Food. It is important that the county retains whatever jobs it has and I hope that he will respond in some way to this plea.