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Minister Cannon praises EGF Talk Talk Programme at Waterford closing event

The Minister for Training and Skills, Ciaran Cannon T.D., today hosted an event in Waterford City to mark the end of the EGF programme assisting workers made redundant at the Talk Talk call centre and at a number of ancillary enterprises in 2011.

The EGF programme has provided guidance, training, upskilling, education and enterprise supports delivered through a wide range of organisations in the public and private sector for 585 eligible redundant workers in Waterford and the South East Region over the last two years. The programme commenced with solely national funding in September 2011 when the redundancies were first announced and, following 50% co-funding received in December 2012 from the EU, continues until its closure later this week on 28th February.

Minister Cannon said, “I am delighted that the EGF programme for Talk Talk workers has been so well subscribed with over 70% of those eligible receiving one or more supports. It is testament to the closer contacts and improved consultation between workers and officials to design relevant programmes which we have been encouraging since the Department reviewed its EGF procedures in 2012.”

The latest implementation report prepared for the Minister indicates that 415 persons had availed of EGF supports in the areas of tailored occupational guidance, training grants, second and third level education, as well as business start-up and enterprise supports.

Speaking of the variety of measures provided the Minister said, “The tailoring of measures to assist EGF beneficiaries to get back into the workforce is what we constantly strive to do in these programmes. It is great to see the type of high quality courses that have been produced. In the publicly funded sector one such course was the popular accelerated Bachelor of Science course put on by the Waterford Institute of Technology and which includes a bridging module into a Level 8 Masters course. In addition, there has been considerable take-up of private sector courses accessed through the EGF training grant schemes”.

Speaking of the practical difficulties that can face redundant workers who wish to access education and training he said, “The EGF Course Expenses Contribution scheme which was piloted in the Talk Talk programme has worked well in providing a measure of security to ensure that people could cover some of the travel, subsistence, course equipment and ancillary expenses that go with attending courses. Over 240 persons accessed the CEC scheme and in speaking to some of them today, they have said that it really made the difference between participating or having to forego courses which they hope will assist them to upskill and return more quickly to the workforce.”

In addition to the Minister’s address, the Chairperson of the EGF Talk Talk Consultative Forum, Dr Ruaidhri Neavyn, President of WIT, was very positive about the programme. The forum was set up to give worker representatives the opportunity to input into the programme as it progressed and to engage directly with providers delivering services such as FÁS/SOLAS, VEC/ETBs, WIT, Department of Social Protection and with the EGF Managing Authority of the Department of Education and Skills.

The Waterford event, which took place in the Tower Hotel, was hosted by the City Manager, Michael Walsh, who was instrumental in bringing together stakeholders initially in the wake of the significant job losses which arose when Talk Talk left the city in 2011.

A number of the redundant workers spoke of the benefits which they had obtained from participation in the EGF programme including a number of individuals who had set up businesses or upskilled through education and training courses.

The outcomes of the EGF programme are being monitored on a longitudinal basis through central labour market status data sources and supplemented by a number of tailored surveys contracted by the EGF Managing Authority. In this context the Minister announced that the employment rate of those who had availed of EGF supports under the Talk Talk programme stood at 54% compared to the EU average for re-employment on EGF programmes which in 2012 stood at 50%.

Note for Editors

The EGF is a two year rapid reaction fund which aims to provide assistance to workers made redundant as a result of the adverse impacts of globalisation to re-integrate into the workforce. Applications are submitted by Member States on behalf of qualifying redundant workers on either a company specific or sector wide basis. The EGF application must be subsequently approved by the European Council and European Parliament with national authorities carrying costs fully until such approval is given.

The first EGF funding round ran from 2007–2013. During this period Ireland made seven successful applications on behalf of over 12,500 workers at Dell, Waterford Crystal, S. R. Technics and in three specific areas of the construction sector. In addition to the Talk Talk programme, some 9,355 redundant workers have availed of 21,332 separate interventions since 2009 when the first Irish programme was launched. Between EU and national sources the Irish authorities have expended almost €56 million in co-funded EGF supports. The Talk Talk programme was costed at €5.4 million, with 50% of final costs being provided by the EU. The Irish authorities have six months after the programme ends to submit a final report and statement justifying final expenditure to the European Commission.

A new EGF funding round commenced in 2014 and will run until the end of 2020. The Irish government through the Department of Education and Skills was instrumental during last year’s Presidency of the EU in significantly progressing the new EGF Regulation, which governs the Fund, through the European Council. The Regulation was subsequently agreed with the European Parliament during the Lithuanian Presidency of the EU in December 2013 and came into effect in January 2014. A number of innovative elements have been incorporated such as the inclusion for the first time of self-employed persons directly affected by globalisation and the potential to include equal number of young unemployed persons as redundant workers in particular circumstances. However, the annual amount available under the Fund has significantly reduced from €500 million to €150 million given the continuing pressures on the EU budget.

The EGF Managing Authority in the Department of Education and Skills continues to assess collective redundancy situations nationally with a view to identifying further sustainable EGF applications and programmes under the new funding round.