THE COMING OF AGE OF THE KILDARE Local Employment Services Forum (KLESN)Micheál MacGréil, SJ.
(Address delivered on the 21st Birthday of the KLESN in the ETB Auditorium, Pipers’ Hill, Nás na Riogh, Thursday 21st June 2018).
Is cúis athas dom bheith anseo inniú i Nás na Ríogh ag ocaid cheiliúrtha Ghreasán Seirbhíse Fostaíochta Áitiuil Chill Dara (KLESN). Tá buíochas agus comhgháirdeachas tuillte ag gach éinne a chuidigh leis an sár obair a deineadh le fiche-haon bhliain anuas. Tá siúl agam go leanfar ar aghaidh leis an seirbhís seo le linn na mblianta seo romhainn.
It gives me great pleasure to share this celebration of your first twenty-one years of valuable service to the people of County Kildare. The KLESN was part of the reaction to the unemployment crisis in the nineteen-eighties and the need for an employment response to the early stages of the so- called ‘Celtic Tiger’. You also had to help the unemployed during the 2008-10 recession and its recovery.
In 1982 I became chairperson of the local branch of IFUT (Irish Federation of University Teachers) in St. Patrick’s College. Maynooth, where most of our academic and library staff were members of the Union. Then, a few years later our union joined with the other Congress Unions in County Kildare in establishing the County Kildare Council of Trade Unions. During 1985-86 the Trades Council setup the County Kildare Centre for the Unemployed and cooperated with IBEC, IFA /ICMSA and Kildare County Council in founding the Kildare Forum on Employment. Because of the crisis in unemployment these three voluntary bodies focused on job-creation and on the social and personal consequences of unemployment throughout the County. ICTU recognised our unemployed District Resource Centres in Droichead Nua, Athy, Naas, Cill Dara and Leixlip. This constituted the background to the setting up of the KLESN.
Founding of the Local Employment Services Forum (KLESN)
In 1996 the Board of the County Kildare Centre for the Unemployed applied for a unit of the Local Employment Services Forum in Co. Kildare. It was felt, at the time, that it would complement the services of the unemployed centres and gave a ‘statutory dimension’ to the response on the ground. The late Larry Bateson (who had the experience of both voluntary and statutory services) gave us valuable advice and continued to do so for years.
Joe Curtis became the first CEO of the new KLESN, having learned his skills with the County Kildare Centre for the Unemployed. The late John Delmer, who succeeded Joe Curtis as Co-Ordinator of the Unemployed Centre, helped to work out a way of constructive cooperation between the statutory KLESN and its voluntary Unemployed Resource Centres. Inevitably, the dialogue became a dialectic at times but it was always constructive. My job was that of a ‘Red and Green’ Referee guiding the match between two ‘Lily-White’ men of talent!
Evolution of the Social Nature of Work.
So much, therefore, for the beginning and the early years of the KLESN. I would like now to say a few words on the change in work and paid employment in the overall, as we face the next twenty-one years (up until 2039). It is possible to classify work-practices at different times in the evolution of modern society. I find that there are five different eras or periods in this evolution, i.e. from Hunting & Gathering to Automation and Information of Technology.
- Hunting and Gathering:
- The men did the hunting and gathering while the women remained stationery and reared its families. This was a period of almost total preoccupation with the provision of basic food and comfort.
- Towards the end of the Hunting & Gathering period, women and older children began Horticulture (hoe) around the settlements and raised the level of food production. This was followed by the introduction of the plough and the domestication of animals as ‘beasts of burden’ and a source of food. During the horticulture phase matriarchy seemed to emerge while patriarchy was to return with the advance of productive agriculture. Also, agriculture in many societies produced a surplus, which enabled people to specialise in such areas as art, religion, politics, the development of transportation and inter tribal communications and further trades. The family became the pivotal institution.
- Industrial Revolution:
- After thousands of years under feudal/family control the dominance of agriculture began to make way to the rise of the Industrial Revolution in Western Europe at the end of the 18th century. This lead to the greater commercialisation of work and in time, undermined the socio-economic and political power of the family. The factory, the mine and the office became the main centres of work. Various skills and semi-skills were central, urban growth expanded, as did many other changes in life-style. The growth of the unskilled worker also emerged. The family became nuclear. Greater economic surplus occurred, Technology also advanced leading to mass-production and so forth. Two major ideologies emerged ie. Capitalism and Socialism, in an attempt to control production and distribution. The Nation State and majority democracy replaced feudalism in response to the needs of the industrial society. Group sports also emerged at this time.
- The Rise of the Services:
- By the end of the 1980’s I discovered (in a national survey) that there was a serious decline in the proportion of blue-collared workers in the Irish labour force when compared with the 1960’s. This indicated that white-collared jobs were becoming more available as those employed in manufacturing industry declined. The reduction of jobs in the manufacturing and mining industries was due to two phenomena i.e globalisation and automation. Globalisation enabled the outsourcing of work to areas of cheap labour. In my opinion, the rise of the services greatly boosted women entering service employment which some might say marked a dent in male dominance. The overall effect of these changes raised serious problems for family life and the rearing of young children.
- The Rise of Automation and Information Technology:
- The effects of this change may not be all that negative. People will have more time for family life, richer neighbourhood relationships, artistic creativity, reflective religious prayer and devotion, amateur sport, dedicated political participation and care for the environment. Such a socio-cultural environment could raise the quality of life and promote true human equality. Of course, the distribution of the fruits of mass production by means of automation and information technology will have to be channelled to meet the needs of all people. Does this mean there will have to be a maximum income level for all and a need for public control of the means of production?
- To the surprise of many, much of the employment in the services industry, especially in the clerical and middle management areas has recently begun to decline. Added to the loss of jobs in agriculture, industrial manufacturing and other areas of labour-intensive work, the effects of this final phase in the evolution of work is leading to consideration of the possibility of a guaranteed basic living wage for every citizen in place of dependence on work for earned income. In other words, there will not be sufficient paid jobs for those willing and able to work. The link between human work and economic productivity has been greatly weakened.
Thank you for listening so patiently and I hope that the KLESN will, in its own way, help the people live positively with or without full paid employment (which will be replaced by a basic living wage). In the mean-time, however, you continue your very valuable service under the present evolving ways of human work and be ready for future changes in the distribution of jobs.
Go raibh maith agat.