Date Released: 28 February 2014
SIPTU has called on the Department of Education and Skills (DES) to undertake a review of the access provided to trade union organisers to school building sites and its complaints procedure, in order to counter a worrying level of non-compliance by building contractors.
SIPTU Sector Organiser, Martin Meere, said: “SIPTU Organisers regularly visit sites were work is being carried out under the DES School Buildings Programme. However, some building contractors have actively obstructed SIPTU Organisers from gaining access to sites in line with long established custom and practice. This has been reported to the Department and attention has also been drawn to the stated position of the Minister for Education and Skills that trade union officials ‘would be the eyes and ears’ in respect of ensuring compliance with pay and conditions terms on these sites.
“SIPTU is aware that the rates currently being applied by some main contractors and sub-contractors are deficient and have informed the Department through its complaints mechanism. We are particularly concerned that contractors identified under the complaints process in respect of failing to honour decisions of the Rights Commissioner and Employment Appeals Tribunal are still able to win publicly funded contracts. It is also of concern that those contractors who failed to pay workers redundancy entitlements that were then covered by the Social Insurance Fund are awarded public contracts.
"SIPTU has also complained on behalf of workers in respect of sub-contractors and agencies failing to apply the terms and conditions referenced in public contracts. High profile projects have been reported by SIPTU to the DES in respect of pay, conditions and illegal deductions from pay, including a ‘charge’ to the worker for emailing payslips.”
He added: “At a meeting in December, ICTU representatives made queries about these and other complaints. DES officials told them that due to data protection issues they could not receive detailed reports on the progress of these complaints. The Minister was also contacted directly by SIPTU in relation to our concerns.
“The lack of a defined timeline in actioning complaints and transparency in relation to their progress leads SIPTU to conclude that the process needs to be reviewed to have any significant benefit to workers. If the reporting mechanism is to work, there must be both speedy investigation and resolution where required, and reporting back to the source of the complaint. There is also a need for constructive engagement by the main contractors with trade unions.”