With the news of the recent launch of a recruitment campaign from the HSE/Tusla for Professionally Qualified Social Workers[i] and the news that this recruitment campaign is open to current social work students[ii], it is clear that the cheap labour scheme (or “new graduate scheme”), which was proposed by the Child and Family Agency in early 2014[iii] is, in the words of their CEO Gordon Jeyes, “dead in the water[iv]”.
When student social workers and SWAN members heard of the proposal to introduce a “graduate scheme” to social work in early 2014 the response was one of anger and defiance. A national campaign was launched with students, educators, practitioners, unions, student bodies and affiliated groups coming together to collective resist this scheme. This included a demonstration outside the Dail[v].
Throughout the campaign SWAN Ireland maintained that the introduction of the scheme would:
- Represent a move to ‘drive down’ salaries within the social work sector and would install a new layer of ‘cheap labour’ within the profession.
- Would be likely to prompt other social work employers to also reduce starting salaries for newly qualified social work professionals.
- Risk undermining the morale of the new agency by unilaterally seeking to undermine the terms of condition of employment.
- May prompt many newly qualified social workers to seek employment beyond Ireland.
- Fail to recognise that fully qualified, CORU registered social workers should be entitled, as part of the workforce, to salaries negotiated over a number of years.
- Dilute the significance of CORU accredited social work training programmes and ignore the fact that students will have already completed lengthy placements as part of their training.
- Convey the bogus idea that students emerging from social work programmes are all ‘young’, ignoring that fact that many newly qualified social work professionals are ‘mature’ and have accumulated a number of years of relevant experience even before commencing social work education.
The steering committee of the Social Work Action Network Ireland would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all those social workers who stood up for their beliefs and fought this battle. We would like to sincerely thank groups such as IMPACT trade union, We’re Not Leaving, the Young Workers’ Network, the Union of Students Ireland and many others, who supported student social workers in this campaign. This outcome shows that by working together we can be successful in our struggles!
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[ii] Additional Campaign Information: “Candidates (Undergraduate Degree / Masters) on a recognised professional social work course due to graduate in 2015”.
[iv] Jeyes was speaking to social workers at a meeting in 2014 when he stated that the scheme was “dead in the water”.