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Supreme Court judgement opens door to ‘shocking attack' on building workers

Date Released: 16 May 2013

The recent Supreme Court judgement on Registered Employment Agreements (REAs) paves the way for a devastating attack on the standard of living of building workers in Ireland, according to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions’ Construction Industry Committee.

The Congress Construction Industry Committee (CIC) met on Wednesday (15th May) to discuss the implications of the judgement, which has had the effect of striking down the Registered Employment Agreement for the Construction Industry.

“When taking on contracts employers are now free to ignore existing rates of pay set by the Labour Court and free to offer skilled experienced craftsmen the National Minimum Wage. This will amount to a 50% pay cut,” said Fergus Whelan of the CIC.

“The judgement may lead to the demise of the Construction Industry Pension Scheme. This pension scheme - which has served hundreds of thousands of Irish workers well since 1964 - has been killed off by a stroke of the judicial pen.

“The clauses in public procurement contracts designed to ensure that public projects and any stimulus package would result in decent jobs for experienced unemployed workers have been struck down.

“Unless something is done, these jobs will go to companies based outside the state who will milk the projects with exploited foreign labour. There will be no jobs for Ireland and little or no indigenous Irish construction industry in the near future,” Whelan said.

“The Supreme Court judgement has left construction workers exposed to a level of exploitation and abuse unknown in this country since the 1930s. The judgement is the latest and most blatant attack on the protections developed over a long period, protections designed to avoid gross exploitation of vulnerable workers.”

Whelan said that unions intend to ensure that all construction projects are carried out under the terms agreed in the Labour Court and “will fight for the national agreement country wide, project by project and contract by contract.”

He added: “It behoves the political system to work to fix this problem.

“Employers now celebrating the victory the Supreme Court has given them could yet find that they might have been better to honour Labour Court agreements rather than watch idly as our industry is destroyed by social dumping and exploited foreign labour," Whelan said.


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