TD tells Dail of alleged “horrific” conditions faced by workers at construction company

Claims of ‘very serious case of the illegal super-exploitation by contractor.’

‘Workers pressurised to rent at extortionate rates from a foreman.’

Sligo News File.

Conditions faced by workers at a construction company engaged on Irish public contracts have been described by a TD as “horrific and similar to those relating to slavery.”

Paul Murphy, TD

Deputy Paul Murphy, who called on the Minister for Business and Enterprise Heather to make a statement on the matter, told the Dail that he wanted to raise the “very serious case of the illegal super-exploitation of workers by a contractor Kwik Structures.

Using his Dail privalege, he said: “The contractor is involved in student accommodation at Grangegorman, Blackpitts and Boland’s Mill, where the main contractor is BAM. I understand that Kwik Structures is due to start work at the national children’s hospital site shortly – again, in conjunction with BAM. Kwik Structures is paying significantly below sectoral employment order, SEO, rates, is not providing workers with payslips and has not registered its workers with the construction workers’ pension scheme.”

Humphreys, speaking on behalf of Minister of State Breen said her Department was “unaware of any alleged dispute at the company referred to by the Deputy.

“Having made enquiries, it would appear that the issues in question

Heather Humphries, TD
Minister for Business and Enterprise

have not been brought to the attention of the relevant industrial relations-employments rights bodies, that is, the Workplace Relations Commission, WRC, and the Labour Court.”

Murphy said the workers in question were now “getting organised and taking all the appropriate action.

“The conditions they face are horrific and similar to those relating to slavery. The conditions in question are primarily focused on migrant workers. Previously, it appears to have primarily involved Polish workers but it now relates to Romanian workers. However, Irish workers are also exploited and stand in solidarity with their workmates.

“The workers are not receiving SEO rates. They are receiving flat rates that are significantly lower than SEO rates. They are not receiving payslips and have not received them over an extended period. There are other layers of exploitation on top of that. For example, workers have been pressured to rent at extortionate rates from a foreman and when they leave that accommodation, they are told that there is no more work for them. The situation is horrific.”

“Will the Minister,” he asked, “agree to talk to her colleagues and try to get a labour inspectorate team sent in to investigate the situation?”

Repeating that she was not familiar with the details of this dispute Humphreys said, “I encourage the employees to bring it to the attention of the WRC in the first instance.

“I ask them to make contact with the WRC because they have rights.

This type of behaviour should not be happening and the WRC is there to deal with those kind of issues because we do not want to see any employee victimised or treated unfairly.

“I ask the Deputy to advise the workers to make contact with the WRC.

Murphy: “I think the workers will contact the WRC very shortly if they have not already done so. I draw attention to the fact that the company is due to start work on a publicly-funded project relating to the new national children’s hospital.

“Obviously, if what I am saying is accurate, and I very much believe it is, it would be completely inappropriate for such exploitation to be happening. It is inappropriate for it to happen anywhere but particularly so with a publicly-funded project.

“The other issue is that there appears to be quite widespread defrauding of Revenue as a way of bulking up the net pay the workers receive. The workers are given very large travel and subsistence allowances that are not subject to tax in order to increase their net pay but in an illegal fashion that may have resulted in a loss of millions of euro to Revenue in recent

Humphreys: “I agree with the Deputy that the exploitation of workers is wrong and should not be happening. I can only say that there is a very strong and robust system in place through the WRC. I strongly urge the workers to make contact with the commission.”