City Hall

“The important work being done by the Right to Work: Right to Welfare Group in Belfast, Northern Ireland to hold the government accountable ... is crucial and should be praised as a promising practice to be followed.”

Ms. Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona, United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights (To view full message of support from Ms Sepúlveda Carmona please click here).

The Right to Work: Right to Welfare Group’s campaign to hold government to account for ‘REAL JOBS NOW’ took an important step forward on Monday 6th January, with significant cross party political support in Belfast City Council for the REAL JOBS NOW motion ensuring its referral to committee stage.

The motion, a result of a year’s worth of campaigning by unemployed people from across Belfast and supported by 1,800 other unemployed individuals in the city as well as a range of community organisations, calls on the Council to use existing public monies and expenditure in a way which targets the chronic long term unemployment in the city. It reads:

“That this Council recognises the increasing social and economic hardship experienced by people in our communities as a result of growing unemployment and cuts to welfare benefit; council accepts it has  a duty to use the powers available to it (including but not limited to planning, regulation and procurement powers), to generate positive outcomes for the most marginalised in our communities and hereby commits to include a ‘Real Jobs’ clause at every available opportunity, in contracts tendered by council to procure goods, services and capital works. The ‘Real Jobs clause’ will guarantee ring fenced, fully paid jobs and apprenticeships for the long-term unemployed (12+ months).”

Proposed on behalf of Council by Sinn Fein’s Cllr Stephen Corr and seconded by the SDLP’s Cllr Colin Keenan, the Real Jobs Now motion has also secured support from the Alliance Party, the Ulster Unionist Party and the Progressive Unionist Party. The motion will now be discussed by cross party members of the Strategic Policy and Resources Committee at Belfast City Council at a meeting this Friday (10th January) before being subject to a full Council vote next month.

Speaking in the Council meeting to propose the motion, Councillor Stephen Corr made the following commentsL:

“It is imperative upon us as a Council to make sure that the massive developments are hitting where they need to be hitting, that they are making an impact in those areas be that the Falls or Sandy Row etc. We have to make sure that any capital build, any jobs that emanate from these decisions are having the required impact...

...It is our job as Councillors that we make sure and do everything within our power to make sure that we put in real proper social clauses and that we even go beyond these proposals here......This isn’t a motion that this group have brought to us tonight on the back of some farfetched, whimsical idea. They have done their homework on it, they have the backing of almost 2,000 people with signatures collected at various dole offices throughout the city and they have done their research into issues like Steps to Work and the totally uncoordinated and un joined up approach to job creation in this city and the fact that only 5% of people who have went through the Steps to Work programme have ultimately ended up getting full time employment and indeed over 50% of them said that the Steps to Work programme which gives them something like £15 per week on top of their dole money had any positive or meaningful impact. I know this is going back to Committee as has been stated but there is a definite need for this Council to ringfence those jobs as outlined...

...I was very honoured when the group asked me to propose this motion; I think it was just that I got the first email in back to them. But they have shown to me, by meeting with them, I met with the organisers and the actual group, I went around one day and sat and had a cup of tea with them, that they are a group to be reckoned with, that they are a group that’s not going away. They are a group of people in this city who know what they want, they are a group of people in this city who have asked us to help them, hoping in some way that we would (and we should) create a template for other government organisations and Departments within the North here to make sure that all major procurement, all major regeneration projects have built in strong social clauses.”

Strong messages of support for the need for Council to adopt the Real Jobs Now motion were also put forward by other political parties in advance of Monday night’s Council meeting:

SDLP Group Leader Councillor Tim Attwood stated:

"The SDLP is delighted to support Real Jobs Now motion. Given the impact of the economic downturn it is important that we support individuals and communities, especially in areas of greatest need. The real jobs motion can help us create a fairer and socially just City.

Belfast City Council as the second biggest employer must be taking a lead in supporting the long-term unemployed. The BCC Investment Package, supported by all parties in Belfast City Council, has demonstrated we are committed to providing significant employment, training and placement opportunities for citizens of Belfast. We now need to build upon this investment package and to set ambitious jobs and placement targets for Belfast City Council. We also need to work in partnership with other major employers in Belfast to maximise these opportunities."

UUP Alderman Jim Rodgers, Alderman Bob Stoker and Alderman David Browne stated:

“The Ulster Unionist party on Belfast City Council are fully in support of the aims and objectives of the Right to Work: Right to Welfare Group. We as a party will do everything possible to try and bring about more employment in our capital city and also the whole of Northern Ireland. We continuously try to bring inward investment to Belfast and also encourage employers to give both young people and the long term unemployed an opportunity to show and prove what they are capable of.”

Councillor Máire Hendron on behalf of the Alliance Party also stated:

“The Alliance Party Group on Belfast City Council acknowledge that there are many people in our community receiving Social Security benefits which they richly deserve. These include people who, for one reason or another, are unable to work.  Among the claimants is a large body of people of all ages who are very anxious to get back into employment but because of the economic downturn the jobs market has been reduced making it ever more difficult for them to secure work. In the Investment Package of the Council we pledged to create apprenticeships and opportunities for young people.  In our ongoing programme of work, we would suggest that a priority consideration is given to the creation of opportunities of employment for the long term unemployed.”