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Danger of ‘non-compliance’ over inspection checks on construction sites in South Dublin

South Dublin County councillors have voted to provide for employment inspections on construction sites operating on behalf the council.

At Monday’s full council meeting Cllr William Joseph Carey proposed that SDCC in conjunction with the Trade Union Federation should put in place a system of compliance inspections aimed at ensuring workers employment rights are being adhered to.

In response, a spokesperson for SDCC responded that it cannot carry out such inspections and that this would be down to the Workplace Relations Commission and the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection and the Revenue Commissioners.

The council said: “By way of providing information on public works contracts, the conditions of the public works contracts place an obligation on the main contractor to ensure compliance with the relevant aspects of the law governing payments to (and on behalf of) employees for all those employed on the construction site, this is not limited to their own employees but for all sub-contractors who provide labour to the site.

“Contracting authorities are required to ensure that the ‘Rates of Pay and Conditions of Employment Certificate’ is received with each payment application and, in the event of non-compliance, to withhold payment until the matter is rectified.

“The requirements regarding record keeping in the contracts are intended to assist enforcement bodies in gathering evidence in relation to non-compliance. Where issues of non-compliance are discovered, contracting authorities should always report such matters to the relevant enforcement body since only they have the authority to bring prosecutions under the relevant legislation and to search and recover the appropriate evidence necessary to bring proceedings.”

The motion was amended, asking that: “The Chief Executive should seek out an agreement with the Trade Union Federation (BATU) for a system of employment compliance inspections on all construction sites where SDCC have contracted out works to building contractors.

“That the aim of which is to tackle the problem of bogus self-employment status on building sites contracted by SDCC.”

The amended motion was ultimately passed and councillors will now write to the Workplace Relations Commission, the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection and the Revenue Commissioners.

Speaking after the council meeting Cllr Carey said: “This is a significant step by councillors aimed at ensuring that employers operating on council sites are adhering to their legal obligations.

“As pressure to ramp up construction delivery intensifies, there is a danger that we will slip back into the old ways of the celtic tiger era of non-compliance in the construction area.”

Cllr Carey added there is “an onus on public bodies” to set the example and ensure that the legal obligations of employers towards workers is being met.

He said: “Every other industry in Ireland is under obligation to make provision for pension deductions and to provide for the future. The system of bogus sub-contracting in the construction industry has led to thousands of former construction industry workers without a pension.

“Under the current system of procurement by local authorities, contractors are supposed to be compliant. However, there is no system of checking or verifying this and is seen as a box ticking exercise.

Cllr Carey added: “It is hoped that by introducing a method of on-site inspections that the sector will improve its record of conforming to the employment legislation.”

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