Like others, I wish the Minister of State well in her new position. She has been tasked with high responsibility. Many people are depending on the decisions made by her and the Government.
The Government made a decision on the European globalisation funds. I understand that three applications have been made to the fund, which is run by the European Union and which makes available €500 million per annum for member states for assistance in retraining and upskilling redundant workers. The three applications made by Ireland are for SR Technics, Dell and Waterford Crystal. I am interested in Waterford Crystal and other Waterford companies. Last week, I and my colleague, Seán Kelly, MEP for the South constituency, met more than 100 former Waterford Crystal workers. We invited officials from the European globalisation section of the European Union Commission and we were happy that they attended in Waterford to hear first-hand the concerns of the workers. It was very clear from the meeting that there is much confusion about the Waterford Crystal application; the entire European globalisation fund application process; and how the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the Government have handled it.
It has come to our attention that the redundant workers involved have not been consulted by the agency or the Department and that the agencies responsible for implementing the funds when they arrive, namely, the VECs, the county and city enterprise boards and Waterford Institute of Technology have not yet been consulted by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment on how it is proposed to assist the redundant workers. It is expected the funds will arrive for the Waterford Crystal application in the coming months. The European Union officials who attended were shocked to hear this because the clock is ticking for this application and they felt much preparatory work should already be in place and consultation and communication should have happened.
I understand the main co-ordinator of the fund will be FÁS. FÁS was invited to the same meeting and it did not even give us the courtesy of an apology for not attending. I wonder why it did not attend. Is there a hidden agenda? Perhaps not, but it did not reflect well on it or onthe Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment that FÁS did not attend the important meeting.
Several questions and concerns have been raised and I will refer to a simple example. While a website has been set up already for the Dell application in the Limerick region on which much information and co-ordination is available, no equivalent website exists for the Waterford workers. It appears as though little preparatory work has been done for the Waterford workers. It also has been brought to my attention that many workers who have been made redundant have not been included in the application made by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the State on behalf of the Waterford Crystal workers. Moreover, it was made clear by Commission officials that those who were made redundant from ancillary services that serviced Waterford Crystal would qualify for such assistance. However, I have been informed that many such ancillary services were not included in the application. It also has been brought to my attention that the Waterford application has not been published and is not yet in the public domain and the Minister of State should state the reason this is the case.
Another matter of concern is that the application was submitted to the European Union on the last day permissible. Normally, ten weeks are allowed after the main redundancies have been announced and the Waterford application appears to have been a rushed job which was submitted at the very last minute. It appears to have been incomplete in many ways and was amended subsequently. Consequently, many concerns exist regarding the management of the application, which is the responsibility of the State and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.
I refer to the many other companies which have experienced large-scale redundancies that do not reach the required threshold of 500 under the EGF fund. European Union officials have made clear that such companies can combine with similar companies in their respective sectors anywhere in Ireland to submit a combined application. I will name four such companies, namely, Teva Pharmaceuticals, Waterford, which shortly will have more than 315 redundancies, ABB, Waterford, with more than 178 redundancies, Honeywell with 130 redundancies and Bausch & Lomb with 195 redundancies. There is nothing to prevent the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment combining these companies with others in their respective sectors to make an application to the EGF on their behalf. That has not been done and no message has come from the Government or the Department to say it will be done. In essence, the Government and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment are failing these redundant workers.
Moreover, there are hundreds of thousands in the construction sector who also could seek assistance under this fund. They need to know what is happening. The Government must communicate how it can assist such people and must communicate through the agencies who have heard nothing thus far. While the Minister of State will have to hand a prepared response, I appeal to her to take this up with the Cabinet because it is not good enough that although funds are available to the Irish people, because of inaction or whatever reason, the EGF is not being fully capitalised on by the State.