Almost four thousand people have been added to the Live Register in Waterford City in the past year, according to the latest figures released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO). Alarmingly, a sixth of that tally was added in the last recorded month alone.
A total of 13,661 signed on during May, which compares to 7,979 in the same month last year. The May total represented an increase of 636 on the April tally, meaning 159 people a week were added to the Live Register in the city between April and May.
It’s of scant consolation to locals that the south east experienced the smallest percentage increase in the Live Register in the 12 months surveyed up to May: however that still came to 83.2 per cent.
Councillor John Halligan, the city’s highest vote getter in last Friday’s local election, said the latest figures had surely given Waterford a most unwarranted national tag.
“In terms of population, I would have thought that Waterford must have one of the highest rates of unemployment in the country, if not in fact the highest,” said the City North poll topper.
“From my reading of the situation, there are three reasons why this is the case. Firstly, one has to question what exactly the IDA is doing in Waterford, what it’s doing or how hard it’s working when it comes to attracting industry into the city.
“Secondly, in relation to bringing high-skilled jobs to the city, there is no doubt that the continued absence of a university is having a detrimental affect on the potential prosperity of Waterford. The importance of Waterford becoming a university city has never been more critical in my view.”
Cllr Halligan added: “And thirdly, I believe that some employers in the city, not all I hasten to add, aren’t being completely honest with their employees when it comes to reducing their work hours and are, in fact, putting the retention of profits ahead of the retention of jobs.”
Cllr Halligan said it was the responsibility of all 15 City Councillors to prevent the city from “falling to its knees”.
Refraining on the IDA’s role, he stated: “We may need to call the IDA before us again. We certainly need them to show to us, on paper, what they’re doing for Waterford and how they are justifying their salaries. They need to show us their mettle.”
Acknowledging the CSO figures, Waterford Chamber Chief Executive Michael Garland said there was no doubting the severity of the hit which the city has taken in recent months.
“It’s a difficult time, there’s no questioning that,” said Mr Garland. “But I firmly believe that employers and their staff in Waterford, working together, have the wherewithal and the ability to emerge from the economic difficulties that we’re all facing.”
Mr Garland added that the ‘them and us’ attitude that has frequently defined the employer/employee relationship is now firmly set for redefining.
“Everyone is buying into that idea,” he asserted. “You can’t just lay off staff and think that that alone is going to get you out of a bad spot – staff are the lifeblood of every sector of industry; without staff, you can’t succeed.”
He continued: “From talking to various businesses over the past few weeks, it’s become clear to me that people are buying into that concept of pulling together. We all have to do something a little bit different now, we all need to be a little more innovative and I believe the determination to do just that is prevalent throughout businesses in Waterford.
“If we can survive through these turbulent times and I believe that we will, everyone in Waterford needs to be ready to grab hold of the green shoots of recovery. And while the road ahead will not be easy, I’m confident that we’ll be ready to do just that when the time comes.”