BUILDING and craft workers unions are planning demonstrations over fears of a “race to the bottom” in the local construction industry in Limerick.
SIPTU organiser Mark Quinn says members of his union, plus the OPATSI plasterers union, the TEEU power union, and the Building Allied Trades Union, are to stage the action amid fears that local workmen may not be getting jobs on public projects.
He has called on Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan to intervene, as a number of school rebuilding projects form part of their complaint.
“Unemployed workers in the Limerick region have been into my office on a regular basis complaining they have been handing in CVs to Department of Education construction projects and have been completely ignored,” Mr Quinn said.
He says that SIPTU and all the craft unions are not being allowed access to the sites to ensure local employment is used, and all employees are getting the correct rate of pay.
“They (the contractors) are doing it purposely to as far as we are concerned create a race to the bottom in the construction industry,” he said.
A ‘social clause’ is placed in the majority of public building contracts now which compels the contractor to employ a certain proportion of local people.
This came after the first stage of the regeneration in Moyross was dominated by non-local workers.
Despite this, Mr Quinn says contractors are ignoring their responsibilities in this field.
“At a time where Limerick’s unemployment rate is rising, as opposed to falling like it is in the rest of the country, it is about time ministers Jan O’Sullivan and Michael Noonan bucked up their ideas to ensure people in the local region gain employment on these projects,” he added.
There were separate protests in Dublin last week in support of the Construction Industry Council’s ‘Decent Work’ campaign.
The unions involved in the campaign insist that despite repeatedly informing the Department of Education & Skills of the abuse of workers on school projects, the ‘race to the bottom’ on these and other public contracts continues.
They claim 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.
Among their demands are opportunities for apprentices, the stop to the use of self-employment contracts on sites, the regulation of pay and conditions, and supporting the construction workers pensions, sick pay and assurance schemes, accrording to the unions.
Mr Quinn said that they had not yet decided when and where in Limerick the protests will take place.
Minister Jan O’Sullivan was not available for comment.