Longford Job Losses

Imagine the fanfare if there was an announcement in the morning that over 17,000 jobs were to be created in Dublin by one company – there wouldn’t be a stage big enough to accommodate the various Ministers and TDs claiming the credit, proclaiming themselves and their party, hogging the limelight, cutting the ribbons.

Now imagine if there was an announcement in the morning that over 17,000 jobs were to be LOST in Dublin in the coming months in a single company. Even in a city of 1m inhabitants that blow would be seismic, going to be felt – there wouldn’t be a Minister or government TD to be found for weeks, all in hiding in their various bunkers.

Taken in proportion, that’s exactly what’s happening today in Longford. With the announcement by Cameron of the closure of its gas and engineering factory in Aghafad, on the outskirts of Longford, 170 workers in a town of just 10,000 are about to lose their jobs, due – according to the announcement – to the ‘severe downturn in the oil and gas industry’.

For all those affected it is devastating news.

If they are of any use whatsoever, this now is the time for our government Ministers to step forward.

There is a fund within the EU Budget for just such an occasion as this. It’s called the European Globalisation Assistance Fund (EGF) and was set up to assist EU workers who have been made redundant ‘as a result of the adverse effects of globalisation’.

Longford/Cameron is a classic case for that fund. It’s true that normally it’s applied only where there are 500 redundancies or more but this case isn’t normal; as highlighted in the opening paragraphs, 170 job losses in such a small community has consequences that reverberate across that whole region and there are in fact already precedents where the EGF has been used in cases such as this.

The problem is, the workers themselves, even en-masse, can’t apply to that fund. The application can be submitted ONLY by the government, specifically by the designated Competent Authority in an EU Member State. In Ireland, that responsible authority is the EGF Managing Authority in the Department of Education and Skills, under Minister Richard Bruton and Junior Minister John Halligan.

I’m joining now with the calls made by Marian Harkin and Matt Carthy that the Minister should immediately submit an application to that fund for the Longford Cameron workers, or at least to have all the background work done to be in a position to formally submit the application the moment the plant is officially closed and the jobs lost.

There is no time to lose.

The EGF’s own website states that it ‘provides a co-financing contribution to EU Member States to provide a personalized package of programmes and services to workers to help them return to employment. Programmes may include career advice and guidance, training courses, further and higher education programmes and enterprise/start your own business supports. Supports may be provided through both normal mainstream programmes and new customized programmes. EGF training grants may be available in respect of accredited education or training courses of a duration of 10 weeks or more. The EU currently contributes up to 60% of the cost of an approved EGF programme with the remaining 40% paid by national funding sources.’

The sooner those programmes kick in for all those workers, the easier it will be for them to make the transition to new employment. Of further benefit, however, is that it will also help to soften the blow to that entire region.

Come on Minister Bruton, Minister Halligan – show yourselves.