Date Released: 19 March 2014
A major push has been launched to ensure hundreds of workers employed on the Irish Water Meter Installation programme receive the pay and conditions to which they are entitled.
SIPTU organisers have identified numerous cases of non-compliance by main contractors and subcontractors. Many of these involve workers not being paid the proper rates for the job and employers not making payments into industry standard sick pay, death in service and pension schemes.
Many workers also have no access to toilets, lunch facilities or drying rooms and are working without overtime bonuses from 7.30am to 6pm.
SIPTU Organiser, Pat McCabe, told Liberty: “SIPTU organisers have made numerous visits to Irish Water Meter Installation programme sites in recent weeks. During these visits organisers have been made aware of a large degree of non-compliance.
“However, many workers are concerned that engaging with SIPTU will have a detrimental effect on the security of their employment as the majority are on short service contracts.”
At the sites, organisers have distributed leaflets to workers detailing the terms of employment and rates of pay which apply to the project, and which are based on the former Construction Industry Registered Agreement.
That these rates and terms should apply to workers on the Water Meter Installation programme was agreed by the Government, Irish Water and local authorities in a deal overseen by the Labour Relations Commission last July.
Under this agreement workers carrying out basic operative to semi-skilled labour are legally entitled to expect a minimum of €15.14 an hour. However, SIPTU organisers have been shown pay slips that indicate many workers are only being underpaid.
Irish Water has contracted four major companies, GMC/Sierra Ltd, J Murphy & Sons Ltd, Coffey Northumbrian Ltd and Farrans Construction, to install 1.05 million metres by the end of 2016.
The contractors are also receiving state funds as an incentive to employ people from the Live Register. Many Irish Water workers are employed under the JobsPlus scheme aimed at assisting the long-term unemployed back into the workforce. For every worker employed under this scheme, employers can claim up to €10,000 in State funding.
SIPTU has long been concerned about the possible abuse of workers employed on Irish Water schemes. The union wrote to Minister for the Environment and Local Government, Phil Hogan, in August 2013 crititising the list of approved contractors.
The letter stated: “We are now very concerned at the possibility of widespread abuse of workers’ rights by the exploitation of them during this programme.”
The Minister failed to reply to the SIPTU letter. Since then union representatives have been in contact with Irish Water demanding that the company end worker exploitation on the Water Meter Installation Scheme.