Wednesday, 15 July 2009
Áine Brady (Minister of State with special responsibility for Older People and Health Promotion, Department of Health and Children; Minister of State, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Minister of State, Department of Social and Family Affairs; Kildare North, Fianna Fail)
I will respond to this Adjournment matter on behalf of my colleague, the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Mary Coughlan. I thank the Senators for raising this important issue. I share the Senator's concern to ensure that all possible measures be put in place to assist the workers who have lost their jobs at Waterford Crystal to upskill and eventually get alternative employment. With that aim in mind, FÁS has put in place a special team to assist those workers with individual skills assessment, occupational advice and guidance, training and job search assistance. FÁS has worked and continues to work in close collaboration with other statutory agencies and educational institutions in the south-east region, such as Waterford Institute of Technology, the Department of Social and Family Affairs, the regional educational guidance service for adults, Waterford citizens information centre, Waterford VEC, Enterprise Ireland and the local employment services.
A two-day information event was held on 11 and 12 March at which these statutory agencies and educational institutions provided information to Waterford Crystal employees, mainly on educational and training programmes that are available locally. To date 520 former Waterford Crystal workers have been given one-to-one guidance interviews, 336 workers have completed training courses in various skills that they identified, 26 are currently being trained and a further 80 have yet to commence training. Other training courses run by FÁS and from which these workers have benefited include heavy goods vehicle driving, basic computer skills, warehouse, fork truck driving and an introduction to life sciences.
These interventions are being provided from existing budgets. Any funds received in future through the European globalisation fund will serve to defray some of the costs already incurred. However, the process of approving such applications at European level involves consultations with the European Commission, the European Parliament and the European Council. That can take some time to complete and, therefore, supports that redundant workers require now will continue to be provided, irrespective of the fate of applications for transfers from the European globalisation fund. In this context, the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment has requested her Department, in conjunction with FÁS and other State agencies, to prepare an application for assistance based on interventions for former Waterford Crystal workers. This process is being finalised and, on the assumption that this results in an application that satisfies the strict eligibility criteria, it will be submitted to the European Commission for initial consideration.
Last December the European Commission proposed, as part of the European economic recovery plan, the revision of the current European globalisation fund regulation to make it more accessible, effective and responsive. This was partly as a result of the limited take-up by member states of European globalisation fund assistance during its first two years of operation. The new application conditions will make the fund more accessible, particularly to smaller countries such as Ireland and include halving the applicable redundancies threshold to 500, doubling the implementation period to 24 months, increasing EU co-financing from 50% to 65% and broadening the eligibility criteria for applications made between 1 May 2009 and 31 December 2011. The revised regulation was formally adopted by the European Parliament and the European Council on 11 June last. The changes to the European globalisation fund regulation apply retrospectively to all applications submitted by member states since 1 May 2009. The revisions will also facilitate Ireland and ensure, in the event of any application being successful, that higher level of co-financing than heretofore will be provided from the European globalisation fund.