Give Belfast City Council a New Year’s Message to deliver for the Unemployed

Exactly one year ago today Belfast City Council took the first step in ensuring that the money it spends would deliver REAL JOBS NOW for the city’s long term unemployed, with a motion for social clauses which was the first of its kind in Ireland, securing cross party support.  Twelve months on the Right to Work; Right to Welfare (R2W) Group, which led the campaign to revolutionise Council policy examines what still needs to be done to deliver change on the ground. 

New Year; New Opportunity

Belfast City Council, following pressure from the R2W Group and PPR, announced in December that a public consultation on their draft social clauses policy would commence. According to Council this policy is designed to implement ‘the spirit’ of the REAL JOBS NOW motion; however on close inspection it is clear that this policy isn’t maximising the potential that exists…

The draft policy out for consultation is based on the version which was presented to Council back in August. There were big problems with it then, and together with people from Belfast and beyond we launched the #3SimpleSteps campaign calling on Council to improve it. Despite this, Council hasn’t responded to either the obvious need or the public demand to make modest yet important changes.

And here’s why the policy needs to change;
  1. The REAL JOBS NOW clause needs to be included “at every opportunity”, not just ‘wherever possible’ or in contracts that are longer than six months and that have a labour value of over £250,000...

This is important because if inclusion of the REAL JOBS NOW clause isn’t a priority when contracts begin to be drawn up, it probably won’t be included in the finished version.. Of course there will be some situations where it isn’t possible to have this kind of clause in a contract - but there should be an onus on Council to work from the basis that it WILL be included, and where it’s not possible, evidence and explain why to make sure no opportunity is missed.

 

  1. Similarly, the REAL JOBS NOW clause needs to be included in “all contracts” not just contracts of a certain type...

Worryingly, the draft policy specifies that only certain types of contracts are appropriate for this policy, with “straightforward supply contracts” for example “unable to accommodate, skills training or employment opportunities”. REAL JOBS NOW must be the default position of Council for every contract. Innovative ways to implement REAL JOBS NOW have to be found, or else we will simply get more excuses why it can’t be done. Belfast City Council has taken the lead by moving forward with the REAL JOBS NOW motion, the first initiative of its kind in Ireland. The policy for its implementation should be just as ambitious to deliver results.

 

  1. REAL JOBS NOW should do exactly what it says on the tin – deliver “ring fenced fully paid jobs & apprenticeships for the long term unemployed” not ambiguous concepts such as ‘employment weeks’...

In real terms, we estimate that if this policy is delivered as it stands, only 24 jobs will be created out of the Council’s £150 million Investment Programme. That’s one job for the long term unemployed for every £6,250,000 of public money handed to private contractors.

We are already seeing that this policy isn’t delivering REAL JOBS NOW at key regeneration developments such as Girdwood Barracks;

The ‘state of the art’ Community Hub being created at the former Girdwood Barracks site in North Belfast at a cost of £11.7million is being led by Belfast City Council as part of its Investment Programme. Despite the ‘once in a generation’ potential of such a huge investment to tackle the high levels of long term unemployment in the surrounding area, there is little indication that those most in need are benefitting under this current policy.

Despite repeated requests for information from Belfast City Council there has been little information shared about just how many ‘REAL JOBS’ were being created through the investment. A Freedom of Information request in December 2014 showed only that Council expected to deliver ‘130 paid person weeks of employment’ at Girdwood.

Council said it would have to conduct a further search for information to answer anything more detailed than this, and  they would charge members of the public £5,364 to access the information!

More alarming still was the news received directly from the lead Contractor at Girdwood at the Employment Information Day also in December. Representatives from O’Hare McGovern confirmed following questions from the R2W Group that only one job for the long term unemployed had actually been created at Girdwood.

The community who live in the area around Girdwood have already seen the site fail to deliver housing to meet the dire need that exists; will they also now see it fail to deliver employment?

 Make a stand to make sure Belfast City Council delivers REAL JOBS NOW!

There is still an opportunity to make sure social clauses deliver for the long term unemployed – the current consultation lasts until 24th February 2015. To get involved or to learn more contact Seán Brady at PPR by email at sean@pprproject.org or call the office on 028 90313315.

Make your voice heard on Twitter: Tell @belfastcc that you want #REALJOBSNOW