Council slammed for payment revisions

by Ian Begley
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South Dublin County Council (SDCC) has been criticised for its decision to pay over 120 community employment scheme participants and supervisors fortnightly rather than its standard weekly payment.
Currently, over 120 people participate in Community Employment schemes supervised by the council and are paid €208 a week. As of January 22 the council will make these payments fortnightly.
The Community Employment programme is designed to help people who are long-term unemployed and other disadvantaged people to get back to work by offering part-time and temporary placements in jobs based within local communities.
Patrick Flood, who is a participant under this scheme, told The Gazette that the new system would make it significantly harder for him to pay his bills.
“I have commitments like bank and credit union bills that I need to pay each week and if I miss a payment it will mean that I have to pay interest on them.
“I’ve also two kids in college at the moment and when they’re on their holidays I will have to look after them. It’s hard enough to live weekly on what we’re making never mind having to wait two weeks to receive a payment.
“At the moment I’m working in a community centre and [the council is] giving out forms for us to sign, but I’m not signing anything because this is just unacceptable,” said Flood.
Cllr Jonathan Graham (SF) has called on council management to “rethink” this decision.
He said: “The decision has been made without the consent of those affected and given the low level of payments will create real difficulties in terms of people managing their finances.
“For people trying to cope on small incomes, weekly payments make financial management easier.
“However, the sole reason for the council shifting to fortnightly payments is to reduce administrative costs.”
Lucan’s Cllr Guss O’Connor (Ind) also criticised the council’s decision to introduce fortnightly payments.
“These people are only making a little more than what you would get on the dole. Some people may manage okay with a monthly payment because they’re on a salary, but if you’re living hand to mouth then two weeks is a long time between payments.
“I can see how they [SDCC] are trying to rationalise this, but in this case the people in Community Employment are only earning a pittance,” said Cllr O’Conner.
Responding to the backlash, a council spokesperson said: “The Public Service Agreement 2010-2014 between the Government and the trade unions representing public service workers, is designed to support the continued delivery of excellent public services in a climate of reducing resources and staff numbers.
“The action plan set out a number of initiatives including the reform of pay cycles to seek greater efficiencies in payroll and pension administration including through reviewing the frequency of payments.
“This includes all weekly paid staff moving to a fortnightly pay cycle. The council are currently in consultation with the Community Employment participants and supervisors regarding the move to fortnightly pay,” said the spokesperson.

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