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Council in 'real jobs' push after backlash by lobby group

By Rebecca Black

Belfast City Council has passed a motion to push for "real jobs" after claims that long-term unemployment has rocketed and current initiatives are no more than cheap labour providers.

The Right to Work, Right to Welfare lobby (R2W) group – which is made up entirely of unemployed people from across Belfast – claimed that there are around 4,500 people who have been out of work for more than a year in the city.

After carrying out interviews at Jobs and Benefits offices, R2W claimed that in south and east Belfast there are around 1,600 people who have been out of work for over 12 months, while 2,900 people have been without a job for more than a year in the north and west of the city.

Spokesman Bertie Atkinson claimed that job initiatives such as Steps to Work were ineffective.

"Unemployed people view it as a cheap form of labour for companies, not an opportunity which provides outcomes," he added.

After meeting with the group, Sinn Fein councillor Steven Corr put forward a motion last night pushing the city council to help create "real jobs".

His proposal stated: "The 'real jobs' clause will guarantee ring-fenced, fully paid jobs and apprenticeships for the long-term unemployed."

Mr Corr said there needed to be closer council ties to training colleges to ensure skilled people were available to fill posts.

"It is about sustainable new niche jobs, giving people the right qualifications instead of going to the dole office and asking, 'Have you been seeking work?' – doing it properly rather than half-heartedly," he said.

The proposal was seconded by the SDLP's Colin Keenan and will be considered by the Strategic Policy and Resources committee.

They said the passing of the motion signifies nearly a year of campaigning by the group.

Some 1,800 people signed a petition calling for the council to back the motion.

R2W represents loyalist and republican ex-prisoners' groups, Irish language organisations, job centres from east and west Belfast, the Lower Shankill Community Association as well as the Cliftonville Community Regeneration Forum.

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