29 June 2000 Edition

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Ó Caoláin slams proposed CE cuts for school workers

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has said he believes the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Mary Harney is seeking to end all Community Employment jobs in schools. In the first step towards these cuts CE placements for some 450 people in school-related employment in the North East region -Cavan, Monaghan, Louth and Meath - are not being renewed.

Ó Caoláin said that he has been ``inundated'' with calls from teachers and CE workers about the development. It affects hundreds of people who work on CE schemes as school cleaners, caretakers, classroom assistants and secretarial assistants. FÁS is not renewing contracts on their expiration and is unable to give any indication if they will be renewed.

Harney intends to cut CE places overall by 4,500 by 2003. In reply to a Dáil question on 15 June, the minister listed priority projects which did not include education. She said that her department was in discussion with the Department of Education and Science on the potential to ``mainstream'' services currently being delivered by CE to the education sector. She said that the Department of Education and Science is providing additional per capita grants to National Schools in respect of Secretarial and Caretaking Services during 2000, and that all schools will receive a grant in respect of secretarial and caretaking assistance by 2001.

Ó Caoláin said:

``There is widespread anger and alarm at these developments. 450 CE workers have been placed in limbo. Clearly Minister Harney thinks that these CE schemes have no place in schools and wants to target her cuts to the education sector.

I accept it is desirable that these jobs should be brought up to standard with proper remuneration and job security. But it is totally unacceptable to move to effectively dump those currently on the schemes and working successfully in the schools.

``Many people in these CE positions are older people who are unlikely to benefit from further employment. The CE payments contribute significantly to their weekly budgets. Current CE workers fear that, under a new system for appointment and employment of caretakers, cleaners, classroom assistants and so on, they would not be taken on by school boards of management.

``School staffs fear that the new arrangements would be inadequate to provide the same service provided under the CE scheme. The capitation grant of £20 per pupil would be inadequate to cover these services, particularly in smaller rural schools, of which there are so many in this region. Is Minister Harney oblivious of the fact that her proposed cuts could mean that already hard pressed teachers would have to do such essential work as cleaning school toilets?

``I am calling on the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Mary Harney to mandate FÁS to renew the CE contracts for school workers immediately and to continue to renew as reviews present themselves. The Fianna Fáil/PD Coalition must act now on this issue.''

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