Offaly Fianna Fáil TD, Barry Cowen, has signed a petition calling on the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Phil Hogan to “respect community sector workers and meet their union” Over 1,000 people have signed the petition in response to Minister Hogan’s refusal to meet with SIPTU members to discuss their concerns over plans to align Local Development Companies (LDCs) with Local Authorities. This alignment process will have major implications for jobs and services as well as removing control of services from local communities.Offaly is one of the pilot areas for the roll out of the planned alignment of LDCs and Local Authorities. Barry Cowen, the Fianna Fáil spokesman on the Environment, Community and Local Government, attended a meeting of SIPTU members employed by the Offaly LDC in Tullamore on Wednesday, 4th September.He said: “The treatment of community sector workers by Minister Phil Hogan is disgraceful. The Minister is pressing ahead with the alignment of LDCs with Local Authorities without engaging with staff and their representatives."He added: “SIPTU representatives explained to me the concerns workers have. While the Department of the Environment is not the workers’ employer it has huge influence on the operation of LDCs and has a responsibility to engage with employers and workers. I am urging the Minister to meet with worker representatives to hear their concerns and act on them.”SIPTU Shop Steward, Donna Quinn, said: “The affected community workers in Offaly have been working with local communities for over 15 years. They have developed a close relationship with communities and the expertise they have built up during this time is invaluable.  It is vital that these workers are involved in the decisions surrounding the proposed changes and that their voices are heard.”SIPTU Organiser, Noreen Parker, said “We welcome Deputy Cowen’s support for our campaign and the representations he intends to make to the Minister on our behalf. It is past time that Minister Hogan engages with the workers’ union, otherwise his plans for alignment are set to fail.”Noreen Parker also welcomed an invitation from the Department of the Environment to attend a meeting on Tuesday, 24th September, but added: “It is vital we secure an on-going place at the negotiating table”.