Dáil debates

Thursday, 9 October 2014

10:35 am

Photo of Joe HigginsJoe Higgins (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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12. To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number of temporary contracts in place for the public sector as a whole including State agencies and other public bodies (details supplied) under the remit of his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38303/14]

Photo of Joe HigginsJoe Higgins (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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I want to ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number of temporary contracts in place for the public sector as a whole.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Minister, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform; Wexford, Labour)
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There are 216 out of 823 staff in my Department on fixed term contracts. Some 178 of these, almost all of them, are temporary clerical officers, TCOs, in PeoplePoint. PeoplePoint, the Civil Service human resources and pensions shared service centre, became operational in March 2013 and brings together shared HR and pension processes and systems to ensure a more consistent and efficient HR and pension service. More than 24,000 employees are availing of services provided by PeoplePoint across 20 Government Departments and offices. The use of contract staff for these posts was necessary to ensure business needs were met and as a temporary response to the demands of the new service. Plans are progressing to replace TCOs with permanent staff.

The Public Appointments Service, PAS, is running an open clerical officer competition and it is expected that panels will be in place by early November. Once panels are in place, it is intended to assign permanent clerical officers to PeoplePoint, ending the need for the current fixed term contract arrangements. All contract staff are managed within budget, the employment control framework numbers for each area and in accordance with the Department of Finance letter of 27 March 2009. In the bodies under the remit of my Department the total number of contract staff is 22.

Photo of Joe HigginsJoe Higgins (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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There has been a very debilitating tendency over recent years, accelerated during the period of austerity, for decent jobs with pay, pension and security for low-income and middle-income workers to be replaced with temporary, low-paid and insecure types of employment. If I understand the Minister, a quarter of his departmental staff are temporary, which is extraordinary. This is carried to its most obscene conclusion with the public sector hiring workers under a so-called internship scheme called JobBridge. Is it not incredible that the public sector is hiring school teachers, school secretaries and classroom assistants on what is essentially a slave labour scheme? What is the dividend of recovery here for these temporary workers?

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Minister, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform; Wexford, Labour)
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The Deputy has a point regarding temporary staff to do permanent work, and that is why I am putting it right as the finances become available. I am delighted to have an open competition for new clerical officers to replace the contract staff in my Department. There will be residual contract staff, for example, people who work directly for me and who are fixed to my term of employment – such as my civilian drivers and special advisors – who are not permanent. Other than this, we will migrate to normal full-time employment. As the Deputy knows, I do not agree with him on JobBridge. There are many people with skills who, rather than being left at home, are happy to do a job of work that will enhance their employability. Approximately 60% of people on JobBridge have migrated to full employment. This is a good and valuable outcome, does the Deputy not agree?

Photo of Joe HigginsJoe Higgins (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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It is extraordinary that some of the most powerful, wealthy and profitable companies operating in this country have the gall to advertise for JobBridge candidates. Tesco tried to get 200 people last year for its Christmas work under the guise of training. It is a scam designed to massage the official unemployment figures and is a gross abuse of young people and workers who are being threatened if they do not take this type of made up scheme.

To come back to the public service, is the Minister saying that from now on this phenomenon of hiring workers on temporary contracts will be a thing of the past?

10:45 am

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Minister, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform; Wexford, Labour)
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I am saying that there will always be a requirement when there are temporary jobs to have temporary contracts. That is the normal pattern of employment. There is no point in having a cohort of staff if there is no work for them. Where there are permanent jobs, they should have permanent contracts, and that is what we will work towards.

The JobBridge schemes I have seen and on which persons I know have been often have been highly valuable at giving skills. There are a number of people in the public service who have contacted me and asked that I help them get a JobBridge place.

Photo of Joe HigginsJoe Higgins (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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Desperation.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Minister, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform; Wexford, Labour)
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Deputy Higgins's point is a simple one. In the time of the worst economic recession when there is significant unemployment, he is happier for the unemployed to stay at home than to do anything.

Photo of Joe HigginsJoe Higgins (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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No.

Photo of Mary Lou McDonaldMary Lou McDonald (Dublin Central, Sinn Fein)
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That is ridiculous.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Minister, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform; Wexford, Labour)
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That is the long and the short of it.

Photo of Joe HigginsJoe Higgins (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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Teachers have been trained.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Minister, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform; Wexford, Labour)
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Finding solutions is not in Deputy Higgins' purview. It is finding problems and wallowing in them. When we find solutions, such as when we get unemployment down below 10% next year, his rhetoric becomes increasingly hollow.

Photo of Michael KittMichael Kitt (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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We have time for one more question.