Fears that a €2.5m European fund for redundant workers in West Limerick could be tied up in red tape have been allayed for now after funding was approved for laptops and other training equipment.
Staff made redundant following the closure of the Andersen manufacturing plant in Rathkeale have welcomed news that they are to receive money to pay for laptops and software that they need as part of their training courses.
They had initially been told that no money would be made available for this equipment, leading to fears over access to the €2.5m European Globalisation Fund (EGF).
However, after the issue was highlighted in the Limerick Leader of July 5 and subsequently raised in the Dail by Fianna Fail TD Niall Collins, a meeting was arranged between the workers and staff from Solas, the body charged with administering the EGF. At that meeting the trainees were told that the money would be approved to pay for their equipment.
“We were told we would get a €500 grant each for laptops and extra money for software,” said one of the former staff members, who is taking part in a training course in Newcastle West. It was also confirmed that trainees would get travel expenses.
She said that they were “delighted” that the issue had been resolved. “We are thrilled and we are now in the process of pricing the laptops,” she added.
The decision to approve the payments has also been welcomed this week by Niall Collins.
“I was concerned for them and I raised the matter in the Dail by way of a parliamentary question,” he said.
“It is only right and proper that they would be provided with the IT supports which will allow them to complete their training courses.”
Responding to Mr Collins’ question in the Dail, former Minister of State Ciarán Cannon said that while it may take some time for the application for the EGF funding to be approved by the EU, in the meantime the relevant supports would be provided by local organisations and co-ordinated by Solas.
He added that a number of meetings had taken place between the EGF support staff and the redundant workers to discuss the supports available to them.
“A consultative forum is also being established to provide the workers with the opportunity to raise any issues and to input into the programme as it proceeds,” he said. “The requirements around access to and provision of necessary equipment and materials for those eligible persons on, or taking up, relevant training and education courses are currently being finalised by the EGF Coordination Unit,” Mr Cannon added.
Under the European Globalisation Fund, up to €2.5m will be made available for training and business supports for the 171 workers made redundant when the Andersen manufacturing plant closed last years, as well as other unemployed young people under the age of 25 in the area.