The Gateway scheme may claim to provide short-term work and training for the long-term unemployed, but it is little more than “State-sanctioned slave labour”.
This is the view of Sinn Féin Galway City East candidate Mairéad Farrell, who is calling on Galway city councillors to oppose City Hall implementing the scheme.
Under the Gateway scheme, those unemployed for more than two years are eligible to take part. They will work for 19 hours a week for 22 months and receive the same statutory annual leave and public holiday entitlement as other employees.
The minimum weekly payment for participants is €208, which works out as an extra €20 from the Jobseeker’s Allowance. It is understood that 55 people are due to take up work in the Galway City Council under the scheme.
However Ms Farrell said Gateway is “exploitative and punitive” as it “forces unemployed people to carry out work for local authorities through the threat of cuts and suspensions to welfare payments”.
She also said the scheme does not include training or education mechanisms, and as such does not enhance the employability of participants.
“Gateway is nothing more than State-sanctioned slave labour,” she said. “Even the €20 top-up could be eroded through tax. It stems from a backward mode of thinking, which suggests that the unemployed are the problem, not unemployment.”
Ms Farrell said the Government and local authorities should instead adopt an activation programme which has “training and education at its core” and which “genuinely seeks to enhance the employability of participants”.