Date Released: 13 August 2014
Construction unions staged protests on Wednesday, 13th August, in an escalation of their campaign in support of Decent Work in the construction industry and against abuses by contractors engaged on public contracts.
The protests were organised by the Construction Industry Committee (CIC) of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and took place on Wednesday morning at the City West Hotel, in Saggart, County Dublin, and at a nearby school-building project, where serious abuses have been uncovered.
Approximately 50 trade unionists, including activists from Cork and Limerick, took part in the protests.
SIPTU Organiser, Pat McCabe, said: “The West Hotel protest was aimed at sending a clear single to those attending an event at the venue concerning the Dublin Institute of Technology Grangegorman Campus development. The message the workers delivered was that REA rates and conditions must be implemented by contractors at this development.”
Unions involved in the Decent Work campaign insist that despite repeatedly informing the Department of Education and Skills (DES) of the abuse of workers on school projects, the ‘race to the bottom’ on these and other public contracts continues.
They have pointed out that workers are being forced to masquerade as self-employed - despite clearly being employees - in order to drive wages lower and deny workers their pension and death-in-service entitlements, along with legal protection for holiday pay and other employment rights.
The unions have said they are aware of skilled trades people being paid as little as €250 a week on sites, well below the established rate.
Although these projects are funded by the taxpayer, few opportunities are given to local building workers or unemployed apprentices to get back to work. Instead, employment agencies are sourcing most of their exploited cheap labour from outside the state.
The Department of Education and Skills has continued to award new contracts to the contractors involved, despite being aware of these abuses for over two years
Unions involved in the campaign say that as the Department cannot or will not restore order on these projects, the unions must be given access to workers and contractors on site to end these abuses once and for all.
The campaign will continue and intensify until the practice of forcing workers into bogus self-employment ceases and until decent working conditions are restored to the industry.
Among the key campaign demands are:
Apprentice opportunities – jobs that offer real prospects for our youth
Stop bogus self-employment – depriving workers of social protection and employment rights
End displacement of craft workers and operatives – source Labour locally
Support the construction workers pensions sick pay and assurance scheme – real benefits
Regulate pay and conditions – support real jobs