Ever since 1946, Irish workers have had the protection of registered employment agreements which gives them legal rights to rates of pay and conditions.
The current Sectoral Employment Order for construction – which has now been made illegal – gave the following legal protections to workers.
- A skilled General Operative who had worked in the industry for two years had to be paid €18.86 an hour.
- A third year apprentice had to be paid 75% of the craft rate of 19.44 an hour
- Premium overtime rates
- A proper pension scheme into which an employer had to contribute €27.35 a week per worker
- A proper sick pay scheme
If an employer did not provide workers with these rights they could face prosecution. Yet all of these rights have been removed from workers at the stroke of a pen by one upper class judge.
Garret Simons has a record in acting as a henchman for the political establishment. As Senior Council he was commissioned by Irish Water to give a legal opinion on whether or not water charges could be stopped. He stated that ‘In our opinion, the Irish State is obliged to continue to impose charges for domestic water services.’ Two years later he was appointed to the High Court by the Fine Gael government.
The attack on the legal rights of building workers has been going on for some time. Few attempts were made to enforce the order even when employers were breaking the law. It became common practice in parts of the country that the Sectoral Employment Orders were simply ignored.
But while working class people are prosecuted for the smallest of robbery, employers who robbed workers wage packets were let go scot free.
These practices have now been sanctioned by the High Court which has removed legal protections.
Building workers need to come together for a massive protest to force the next government to restore their legal rights. Their unions should take a lead and respond decisively. If they don’t move, it will fall to grassroots organisations to resist.