Tánaiste Mary Coughlan has confirmed that the Government has made a preliminary approach to the European Commission with a view to including laid-off Waterford Crystal workers in a compensation scheme for companies forced to make mass redundancies by the global economic downturn.

Both her party colleague Deputy Bobby Aylward and Labour’s Brian O’Shea had asked if her Department has made an application on behalf of the State to the EU for assistance from the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund on behalf of the workers made redundant

The Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment said funding is available from the Fund for workers in member States made redundant as a result of major structural changes in world trade patterns due to globalisation and subsequent market impacts within the European Union.

“Until now at least 1,000 workers had to lose their jobs in a single enterprise within a reference period of four months as one of the key eligibility criteria under the EGF. However, the Regulation governing the EGF is being revised at present in order to ensure that it better responds to the needs of affected EU workers.

“The proposed revisions include the halving of the current threshold number of redundancies to 500, an increase in the co-financing rate from up to 50% to 65% and doubling of the permitted period for use of co-financing from 12 to 24 months,” she explained.

“These new measures, which were strongly supported by the Government in the course of recent negotiations at the European Council, will make the Fund more accessible and will apply to applications made by member States between 1 May 2009 and 30 December 2011.”

The revised Regulation is in the process of being adopted by both the European Parliament and the European Council. “In this context and with a view to pursuing the making of an application under the revised EGF Regulation in respect of redundant workers at Waterford Crystal, my Department has been in contact with the European Commission,” the Tánaiste said.

The Fund has an annual budget of €500 million to help workers affected by globalisation find new jobs through retraining schemes or other forms of assistance.

The Minister pointed out that “apart from any application that might be made under the EGF, the Government has already put in place supports to facilitate those workers made redundant at Waterford Crystal to benefit from retraining, upskilling or the availing of educational opportunities in order to assist in their eventual reintegration into the workforce.

“In this regard FÁS has put in place a dedicated team to assist workers at Waterford Crystal with individual skills assessment, occupational guidance and advice, job search assistance and training. FÁS is also working collaboratively with other statutory agencies and educational institutions in the South East region. Since November 2008 it has provided guidance sessions for 520, and training for 336, of the former employees of Waterford Crystal,” she added.