Wednesday, 17 September 2014
Departmental Staff Redeployment
I thank the Minister of State for taking this matter, which arose as a result of media reportage that there is to be relocation of State jobs from the facility in Tubbercurry in County Sligo, which comprises civil servants from the Departments of the Environment, Community and Local Government and Social Protection. Following media comments local councillor Jerry Lundy raised the issue on local and national media because he had been given to understand from those working in the facility that it is effectively going to be shut down and that all of the jobs in Tubbercurry will be transferred.
The background is that as Minister with responsibility for rural development in 2006, Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív decentralised sections of the Department comprising 101 jobs to what was referred to as a temporary facility in Tubbercurry pending the building of a permanent facility at Charlestown, County Mayo. Naturally enough as time went on Tubbercurry became very comfortable with the notion it had so many State jobs, particularly as the area has a history of industrial production. The late James Gallagher, who was a Deputy for Sligo-Leitrim, created 450 jobs as a result of his entrepreneurial skills, with Basta locks being the best known product, but sadly this shut down. Tubbercurry has a background of fruitful, positive and productive employment so one can understand the reaction when the news started to circulate in the area.
The Department of Social Protection has a number of jobs there, and the suggestion is these will be relocated to either Sligo or Carrick-on-Shannon, where Department of Social Protection offices operate. When I made inquiries the Department was unable to clarify exactly what the position is. I and Councillor Lundy are operating on rumour and hearsay. I have confirmed the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government is being relocated. What will happen to the Department of Social Protection work force? It is important the staff are reassured, and it is for this reason I seek clarity on the situation, which I hope the Minister of State will be able to provide.
I thank the Senator for bringing this matter to my attention. I was not aware of it earlier. The Department of Social Protection has ten staff based in Government buildings on Teeling Street. Is the figure of 101 the total figure?
There are only ten departmental staff working there. The Department office in Teeling Street is not a public office, and the Senator is probably aware of this. It administrates the Gateway scheme, the rural social scheme, Tús and the community services programme. With 20% occupancy, the Department of Social Protection is the minor tenant in the building on Teeling Street and the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government is the major tenant. The Department of Social Protection has recently been advised of Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government plans to permanently relocate its staff from Tubbercurry in the short term.
The Department of Social Protection is examining potential alternative locations to which the work being undertaken by staff in Tubbercurry can be relocated. Locations in Mayo, Sligo and Leitrim are being explored but no decision has been made. The option will be available to staff based in Tubbercurry to move to the location to which the work is relocated, if they so wish. Every effort will be made to ensure that the staff located in Tubbercurry are accommodated with suitable alternative work locations. There will be no impact for customers as a result of the decision.
Inevitably the news was not going to be very good. Has any consideration been given to retaining the ten jobs in another location in Tubbercurry? They will be lost to the town. I understand it is possible, not only with regard to the Department of Social Protection but also the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, that there may be requests for transfers to other Departments in the region which would suit people. The town of Tubbercurry is losing valuable State jobs which will be exceptionally difficult to replace. The Minister of State spoke about options being available, but the impression I have from the response is the decision has been taken in principle to move the ten staff out of Tubbercurry and it is a question of where they will go. Perhaps the Minister of State will confirm this, but it seems to be the view. All I can do at this stage is plead on behalf of the people of Tubbercurry that perhaps the Department might consider retaining the ten jobs there in a smaller location, which I am sure would not be beyond the capacity of the Department to identify. I hope the reasons they must move out of Tubbercurry are not because of the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, which is the anchor tenant in the modern and purpose-built building which will now be left completely vacant. Is there any hope for retaining the jobs in Tubbercurry?
I thank Senator Mooney for raising this issue. As I outlined in my initial response we are quite the minor tenant in the building. I will do my best to take on board the Senator's questions on whether there is a possibility and how far the decision-making process has gone. My concern is that the service provided by the staff would maintained and that the current staff are treated in a proper manner. I have heard very clearly what Senator Mooney has said and will certainly explore in any way I can the alternatives he has pointed out to me.