Saturday, December 05, 2009

Address to ICTU National Jobs Summit

I would like to thank the Irish Congress of Trade Unions for inviting me to open this important conference on jobs and employment. As Lord Mayor of Dublin it is my great pleasure to welcome those of you who have travelled from different parts of the country and indeed from other European countries, to Dublin (and may I suggest that you spend some time here in the capital city availing of the fabulous winter programme we have arranged and also supporting our own local employment initiatives by using the opportunity to do your Christmas shopping while you are here!)
I am delighted that Congress has organised this Jobs Summit. It is certainly most timely. As the Government focused almost exclusively on the financial crisis and saving the banks and it has neglected the vital area of jobs. Now that the NAMA legislation has been passed and the banks seem to be somewhat on the road to recovery, (due o €7 billion in cash to date of taxpayers money and more in guarantees), the priority must shift to jobs.
Employment – the retention of existing jobs and the creation of new jobs must our No 1 priority. It is not just the devastating impact which it has on individuals and their families, but on society as a whole. There is the economic cost and there is the huge social cost. There is lost output, lost taxes, the waste of human potential, and loss of self esteem and much more.
I am also conscious that since I was elected Lord Mayor, I have too often found myself with workers on the picket line workers who were fighting to protect their jobs, including companies such as Thomas Cooke and Direct Holiday, MTL and Coca Cola or fighting against proposed compulsory redundancies in the public sector as was being proposed in UCD.

Over the course of the Local Election campaign, unemployment was the single biggest issue on the doorsteps. The human stories behind those workers losing their jobs came to the fore as people described their fears about losing their homes, being unable to provide for their families and despairing for their children's future and also losing their sense of self-worth because of losing their job.
Each job lost costs the state €20,000, of which around €13,000 is in welfare costs and the balance is in lost taxes. Thus there must be an imperative to retain jobs – to maintain peoples’ dignity and to use the opportunity to upskill them.
The greater Dublin area accounts for four out of every ten jobs and half of all goods and services produced in Ireland. Dublin is the engine of our economy. It must also be an engine of economic recovery. The priority must be job creation and the retention of existing employment.
Unemployment nationally stands at an all time high of 12.4% compared with 6.8% last year. Nationally, the number of redundancies this year to date, stands at almost 55,000 up 135% from this time last year. Dublin like the rest of the country has been haemorrhaging jobs. The stark figure of a 140% increase in the number of people signing on in the Capital in the past two years (from 42,000 in June 2007 to 101,000 in June 2009) tells its own story.
Dublin needs strong and creative leadership, with a clear vision for the future of the City, to get its economy moving again. We need to prioritise the protection of existing employment and the creation of new jobs.
To this end I have made the economy my priority as Lord Mayor of Dublin and have established the Commission on Employment to examine how Dublin City Council can facilitate growth in the local economy. It will examine the scope of the problem, identify the unemployment blackspots; it will meet with and take submissions from the key stakeholders in all relevant sectors; it will engage with local community groups, hold public workshops and take public submissions.
The Commission will focus on four thematic areas namely, a) employment and unemployment, b) education skills and training, c) business entrepreneurship and finance and d) volunteering and the social economy.
Through each of these themes we will work to develop policies and create conditions which will generate new jobs. We will identify issues and gaps in the education, skills and training systems to support Dublin’s performance as a hub in the Smart economy. We will identify existing or future opportunities for employment creation and enterprise growth. We will explore opportunities in potential growth sectors, for example, in the green economy, creative industries and cultural tourism heritage enterprise. We will ascertain mechanisms to support enterprise, particularly small to medium sized enterprise and will identify potential sources of funding. We will also examine the role of the voluntary and community sector and the potential benefits to the exchequer of people being employed through Community Employment and the social economy. We are currently planning a number of public and thematic workshops and detailed information is on the City Council website and I have also established a Linked In page which I invite people here to join.
Helping the unemployed back into work calls for creative and innovative approaches. I have launched a Call for Ideas/Actions and I am convinced that even at this early stage that there are a huge number of ideas out there that need to be tapped.
I was delighted to receive the Congress Document the 10 Point Plan for a Better Fairer Way which clearly shows that the Trade Union Movement has such innovative and creative ideas. Proposals such as a €1 billion Jobs Initiative and a National Recovery Bond to finance job creation are also sensible and practical. Many people are anxious to contribute to national recovery and this could be channelled by establishing a National Recovery Bond. With a high cost of borrowing increasing, a domestic National Recovery Bond could save the exchequer a lot of money. It could also be targeted at specific sectors such as school building or public transport, so people could see tangible gains and will kick-start renewal in local economies. Indeed the proposed unified campus for the DIT and primary Healthcare facilities at Grangegorman could benefit from such a scheme. I am very alarmed that the McCarthy Report is advocating scrapping this project and I strongly believe that this would be a completely retrograde step. The Agency has already published a report on the employment and training opportunities from the Grangorman Project. Dublin City needs a world class university campus such as is being proposed for Grangegorman and that the benefits to be accrued from investing in this capital project far outweigh any arguments against it.
Another innovative idea is the proposal for a Social Solidarity Pact as a better and fairer route to national recovery.
The social welfare system must be radically altered and integrated with skills enhancement, education and training. Employers should be helped to identify alternatives to redundancy, such as short term working weeks and other arrangements.
The high human and social costs of increased unemployment are most felt among the young. I agree with the stance taken by Congress that assistance must be targeted at the young, focusing in particular on strengthening active labour market programmes, expanding education, providing wage and employment subsidies, as well as incentives for hiring the young in public sector organisations. The embargoes have cut off these opportunities for the young unemployed.
Another question which is exercising the national psyche is how the €4bn “Adjustment” is to be made. I would agree with the line adopted by Congress that these “savings” should not be all at the expense of reductions and cuts in public services. That type of action will I believe ultimately prove to be deflationary, prolong the recession and increase unemployment. Part of the adjustment must come from increased taxes, particularly from those who can best afford to pay.
Today you have brought three important speakers who will share their views on how this is being done successfully in three European countries. The quality of the speakers and the programme you have today are testimony to the weight you attach to the whole subject of job creation and retention.
I wish you well in your deliberations. I have no doubt that the debate will be interesting and I look forward to receiving a report on the proceedings of the Conference.

Conference Report available at

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