REGENERATION works on the southside of Limerick ground to a halt yesterday after unemployed tradesmen set up a blockade in protest at the hiring of staff from outside the region.
Gardai were called to Salvia Court in Southill, where houses are currently being knocked as part of regeneration in Southill.
The demonstration by five workers meant an excavator was sent home for the day, because his lorry could not enter the site.
Pat Delaney of the Ballinacurra Road, and William Gammell, of Pallasgreen were initially not allowed on site to work due to the stand-off.
Local organiser of the Building and Allied Trades Union (BATU) Mike McNamara has questioned the actions of the men, who are all members of the union.
And James McCallan, the company engineer of the Omagh-based contractor McCallan Bros, stressed he has employed several local people on the project.
Plasterer, Chris Duhig, Moyross said they will continue the blockade for the foreseeable future.
He said: “This is a peaceful protest so we can get work. This is all we want: a job.”
Mr Duhig added although they would only get three days work with the contractor, it would send out a message: that people from regeneration estates were being gainfully employed.
“There is no reason we should not have got today’s work. They expect us to live in these estates, but they do not want us to have any impact. They expect us to roll over, stay in our homes, and watch every other contractor come in,” he argued.
Mr Duhig believes the contractor did not take the group on because of complications of completing paperwork on short-term contracts.
He said a number of staff left the site after speaking to the protestors.
But Mr McNamara says BATU were unaware of concerns.
He said McCallan Bros is on a council-approved list, and is employing union members.
“My view as far as we are concerned is that the contract was given in accordance with the agreement to a principal contractor. The principal contractor then engaged sub-contractors which employed local labour,” he explained.
Mr McCallan said only three people are working on site from Omagh. Local contractors in place include skip hire firms, haulage firms, roofers and cladders, he added.
At Monday’s council meeting, regeneration director Oliver O’Loughlin said they are examining ways the employment of local labour on regeneration construction sites can be framed in law. This followed a question from Mayor Gerry McLoughlin.