Workers employed by Paul Construction started picketing four of their sites on 2 December. Over thirty workers had previously sat in on the St Vincents’ Hospital site on the previous Monday. They agreed to give up their sit in when the company began talks with the workers’ union SIPTU.
The issue at the centre of the dispute is that the company are attempting to put workers on ‘temporary lay off’. This is a device that has been increasingly used in the construction industry in the last couple of years. It is effectively an effort by the company to demoralise the workers and to avoid giving them their full redundancy entitlements. In an industry that only ever pays the statutory minimum redundancy, at best, this is a particularly miserable tactic in the run up to Christmas.
The Paul workers have said that they recognise that there is a decrease in the work of the company and are fully prepared to discuss redundancies, on an organised and agreed basis of last in first out. Many of the workers involved, of all grades, have worked for the company for almost a decade and more. The reality is that the company is now trying to replace direct labour with sub contractors and agency workers, who will have far less pay and worse conditions.
The Paul workers have acted decisively. SIPTU should move immediately and declare this dispute official. Other workers on the sites in question should respect the pickets. These workers supported the electricians strike and that support should be repaid. An injury to one is an injury to all.