SIPTU members working in the community sector are to commence a ballot on protective industrial action to counter the threat of major jobs losses in the sector and to hold a ‘day of action’ on Wednesday, 18th February. The day of action will include a protest outside the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government at the Custom House, Dublin at 2.00 p.m. on Wednesday, 18th February. This is to highlight the Department’s refusal to accept a Labour Court recommendation that it enter into meaningful discussions with community workers and their union representatives concerning changes to their conditions of employment and threatened job losses.SIPTU Vice President, Patricia King, said: “Jobs are being put at risk in the community sector by the policy adopted by the Department of Environment and workers have no mechanism whatsoever to have their issues addressed.“Furthermore, cutting the State’s main social inclusion programme by almost 50% and putting it out to tender will adversely impact on communities already dealing with disadvantage and poverty. The union fully supports community workers in their struggle to defend jobs and services in local communities.”  SIPTU Sector Organiser Eddie Mullins, said: “The Labour Court recommended that the Department should sit down and resolve the issues that workers face. Instead, we are facing a massive industrial relations mess in the community sector and the blame rests solely with the Department.”The Government is currently privatising community programmes funded under the Social Inclusion and Activation Programme (SICAP). SIPTU community sector activist, Donnie O’Leary, said: “Workers across the country are being placed on protective notice with some having already been made redundant. In the face of the Department’s intransigence the union has been left with no option but to commence a protective ballot to defend our jobs under transfer of undertakings legislation.“If this ballot is successful it will mean that whatever companies win the right to operate programmes under SICAP, community workers across the country will defend their colleagues right to maintain their employment with its existing terms and conditions. This right will be defended by industrial action, up to and including strike action.”