SIPTU members brief Joint Oireachtas Committee on threat to community schemes

SIPTU members attended a meeting of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Social Protection, Community and Rural Development and the Islands on Wednesday (11th May) to brief it on the growing threat to the operation of community schemes across the country.

Rural Social Scheme (RSS) supervisor and member of the SIPTU RSS National Committee, Liz MacDonald, told the Committee that the programmes she operates provide financial support to low-income farmers and fishermen in return for them providing 19.5 hours of work each week supporting services in their local communities. 

She said: “The work carried out by RSS is far reaching and includes tidy town projects, maintenance of community centres, sporting facilities, churches, cemeteries and Meals on Wheels. The range of projects supported also extends from research, cultural and heritage projects, such as graveyard mapping and historical book writing to retail support in charity shops. Furthermore, RSS participants play a key role in promoting and preserving biodiversity through cultivating and maintaining parks, walkways and woodlands.”

McDonald called for an increase to the payment received by participants to reflect the quality work carried out and to lessen the impact of the cost of living crisis. The need for the Government to live up to its commitment to establish a forum to discuss the issues facing the community sector was also highlighted.

Tús (community work placement scheme) Scheme Supervisor, Martin Corcoran, said: “Workers in this sector are very proud of what they do. However, it is important that we have an ongoing dialogue between all the stakeholders to ensure the provision of services to the community and participants.” 

SIPTU Public Administration and Community Division Organiser, Adrian Kane, said: “I welcome the unanimous recognition and support from members of the Joint Oireachtas Committee for the critical work that our members in RSS and Tús perform across the country. It is time for Minister for Social Protection, Heather Humphreys, to engage with workers’ representatives across the community sector to address the very serious industrial relations issues which they are facing.”