Date Released: 21 March 2013
Tommy Byrne’s decision to join SIPTU while working as a participant in a CE scheme was instrumental in ensuring his contract was renewed.
Tommy, who works as a caretaker for the Crosserlough Community Development Scheme in county Cavan, was told that his contract would not be renewed at the end of his first year on the scheme.
He said: “I was devastated because there was no work out there and I faced the dole again. I was also in the middle of a level 3 Computer Course to upgrade my skills.
“However, I was told that only 25% of participants could have their contracts extended and that there was nothing that could be done.”
Fortunately, Tommy had attended a meeting with Noreen Parker from SIPTU’s Strategic Organising department a couple of months earlier and had signed up for membership.
He continued: “I worked in Britain for many years as a carpenter and was always in the union, so I didn’t have to think twice about joining.”
Upon hearing that his contract would not be renewed, he immediately contacted Parker and discovered that while there had been changes to the eligibility criteria for remaining on CE, he had in fact every right to an extension.
Tommy raised the issue again and pointed out that he was entitled to receive a further contract.
When he still met with resistance he weighed in with a letter from his union outlining his entitlements.
Tommy also enlisted the help of local TD, Caoimhghim Ó Caoláin, who raised the issue of entitlements for CE workers in the Dáil.
As a result, Tommy’s contract was renewed but he is keen to highlight the issue for other CE workers who may be facing a similar plight.
He told Liberty: “There is a lot of misinformation out there as to who is and who is not entitled to renew on CE.
“Being in SIPTU gave me the confidence to establish what my rights were and to insist that they were respected.”
Tommy found the experience empowering and is now looking forward to playing a bigger role within SIPTU through the newly-established Cavan District Committee.
He added: “I would urge anyone working on a Community Employment scheme to join the union – not just to ensure your own rights are protected but also to support SIPTU’s campaign to maintain CE schemes which have been under sustained attack from government cuts for the last number of years.”