Members of the trade unions SIPTU and Fórsa have held a protest at the constituency office of Taoiseach Micheál Martin in Cork, appealing for him to intervene in a dispute over the future of Local Employment Service Centres and Jobs Clubs throughout the country.

The unions claim the jobs of around 300 of their members are under threat.

SIPTU and Fórsa say this morning's protest is part of a long-running dispute between the unions and the Department of Social Protection over the future of a network of Local Employment Service centres and Jobs Clubs.

These are community-run offices providing job-seeking advice and services for the past 25 years to people who are long-term unemployed. SIPTU and Fórsa say attempts are being made to privatise the services.

In December, the Department of Social Protection advertised for companies and organisations to tender for contracts to run local area employment services.

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"The current proposal is a significant step in the marketisation of the sector," SIPTU and Fórsa say in a letter to the Taoiseach.

The unions say if this is followed through, the jobs of around 300 of its members who work in these offices will be under threat.

They say Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys has refused to meet them, and also state in the letter that the Department of Social Protection has said it will not be attending exploratory talks proposed by the Workplace Relations Commission.

They now want the Taoiseach to intervene.

"This obviously leaves the union side with no alternative but to seek a direct intervention from your own office, as leader of the Government," the unions tell the Taoiseach in their letter.

They are also calling for a stakeholders' forum to be established to agree a way forward for the development of local employment services and the wider community sector.