Complain And You’re Out: Construction Work In Ireland

Tony Nicoletti IWU Member Protesting at Dublin Building Site

At 7:30 this morning Tony Nicoletti raised his hand-made sign was protesting beside the site. He was denied work this week after raising complaints about short pay.

He was a general operative until Tuesday evening working on the Sisk site building social housing units for Dublin City Council on Cork Street Dublin. He was working through the construction employment agency Falcon Green.

He and number of his fellow workers on the site had noticed that when they passed through the site gates a few minutes late they would miss out on a whole 15-minute block and sometimes to a few hours pay.

This led to overtime (time and a half or double time) being delayed and denied.

The workers who had the issue discussed this with members of the Independent Workers’ Union who also work on the site. Nicoletti, as the union rep for the site, was mandated to speak about the short pay issue to site management, Sisk.

Nicoletti said he was let go on this Tuesday. He asked about a formal grievance procedure for himself and fellow workers the following day. He said Sisk suggested they were not the venue for the grievance. The agency Falcon Green should answer for the missing pay and any grievance was where he was directed.

Following this advice and after consulting with his union, Nicoletti says he did talk to Falcon Green and that they suggested the turnstile gate itself had a technical issue out of their control as a construction work agency. He was offered work on another site and lost pay but he says that construction workers and workers generally need to make a stand.

Today he was out protesting at the site. The passerbys from community have given him encouragement and support. Fellow workers have been supportive, he smiled. The company declined commenting or confirming anything except the date of the end of his employment and the site.

LESSONS

Nicoletti says construction has always been precarious work. ‘Agency work, Zero hours contracts, no options for direct work, victimization, blacklisting…It’s disgraceful that an individual and a union rep can be picked out like this for a legitimate issue. The industry isn’t safe for agency workers on sites when they raise grievances.’

Andrew Keegan of Facebook forum on construction work Building Workers: Know Your Rights said that there are known ‘scalping’ issues with agencies in construction work. ‘You clock in two minutes late but the technology shows this. The agency can get the pay in most cases but might not pass that onwards to the worker. Sometimes this can be an hour or more a day. Over a week it can lead to overtime being lost.’

The IWU reps supporting him on the protest noted that complaints often lead to workers losing hours and jobs. ‘It’s an employer’s job market especially early in the employment. Workers feel forced to accept even losses in pay. And it’s not just construction: tech, security, retail. Everyone needs to support each other in their union.’

People Before Profit supports workers fighting together for fair treatment. Union members and all workers need to fight to stamp out the issues facing newer and younger workers as they fight for fairness at work. Join People Before Profit and join your union. If you have questions contact [email protected]

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