14 October 2021
By Tom Collins
Sinn Fein TD for Cork North Central, Thomas Gould, and Cllr Mick Nugent have today called on the government to fast-track delivery of the Training Fund promised to former Debenhams staff.
Deputy Gould said:
“On 20th May this year, the former Debenhams workers accepted a commitment from the government that they would be able to access a special training fund to upskill.
“Almost 5 months later and it would appear this fund is only in planning stages.
“The former Debenhams workers were on strike for 406 days, surely this was enough time for the government to plan for their own proposed resolution?
“There is still no timeline and many of the former workers, who had been hoping to take up courses in September, are feeling frustrated and let down by the government once again. Many of the workers have now found new jobs or started courses and won’t be able to avail of the fund when it does eventually appear.
“Alongside this, there appears to be little progress on the implementation of the Duffy-Cahill report. This needs to be a priority for the government to make sure that we don’t have a repeat of the Debenhams or Clery’s situations.
“It’s now time to put the additional resources needed in and fast track the training fund.”
Cllr Mick Nugent said:
“I was proud to have stood on the picket lines with the Debenhams workers. When they accepted the resolution offered, it was with the understanding that they would be able to take up training courses in the very near future. At this stage, there are questions over whether the fund will even be ready for courses beginning in January 2022. While it is good to see some work being done on this, it must stay top of the agenda.”
The €3m Training Fund, proposed by the Chairman of the Labour Court in the context of the liquidation of Debenhams Ireland, was endorsed by the former workers in May 2021.
The Fund will be financed from the National Training Fund and the necessary approval of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform has been obtained. It will operate for 2 years providing support for career guidance/life coaching, education and training and business start-ups.
The Fund will be administered by SOLAS with an advisory committee, including representatives of Mandate and SIPTU on behalf of the former workers, to support the implementation of the Fund. The advisory committee has been established with Ms Cynthia Deane, former Chief Executive of Kilkenny Carlow ETB, as Chair. The committee held its inaugural meeting on 27th September.
SOLAS has developed a comprehensive support programme, including training grants, similar to those offered under previous European Globalisation Fund programmes. It has appointed a Programme Manager and is recruiting temporary support staff for the Fund while also establishing its administrative processes.
SOLAS has engaged with the liquidators to identify the individual former workers and contact is being made with the former workers to enable SOLAS compile a masterlist of those involved. SOLAS will communicate directly with the individuals concerned, inviting them to group information sessions, following which SOLAS will engage with the former workers individually.