The house builder Glenveagh has decided, along with other construction companies, to use the crisis to cut its workers pay. Now that many constructions workers are back at work they are facing an onslaught from employers looking to force though cuts. They hope the fear of a recession will force workers to agree to cuts rather than lose their jobs. The workers have been told to “toe the line” or get another job!
Glenveagh is now proposing that its workers work a 48 hour week without overtime in complete breach of the Sectoral Employment Order for the Sector. They want workers to bank their hours and use additional hours as holidays in January when the industry slows down. This effectively reduces the workers hourly rate and denies them time and half for hours over 39. It also denies them the chance to make up for loss of earnings in recent months.
These attacks are coming from a highly profitable company who availed of government subsidies through the Wage Subsidy Scheme to pay workers 70% of their net pay. The tax payer has been subsidising a company that made a net profit of €24 million in 2019 on the back of a turnover of €284 m. This was due to a 16% increase in selling prices for houses and apartments. Most their properties are being sold directly to vulture funds for rental at high rents making it difficult for workers and their families to access the housing market.
A report on the business website Fora on March 24th said that Glenveagh was in good health in relation to its balance sheet. It went on to say “Glenveagh have significant headroom relative to their funding facilities. Combining this with a very low level of fixed costs, we believe that both Glenveagh and Cairn (another house building company) have the ability to withstand a protracted period of downtime if that situation unfolds”https://fora.ie/coronavirus-daily-business-wrap-5055566-Mar2020/
RTE quoted the company on May 7th as saying “Glenveagh is in a strong position as a market leader and continues to benefit from a robust balance sheet with good liquidity. Furthermore, the recommencement of construction works will enable Glenveagh to deliver positive cash inflow.”
What going on now is that these developers want workers to take the hit for the Covid 19 crisis. Workers need to get organised to resist this. The unions need to get onto the sites and get people organised.