Wednesday, 4 July 2018
Schools Building Contractors
I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Halligan, to the House to discuss the issue of a migrant worker who has been exploited by an unscrupulous employer. As there has been a huge amount of correspondence with the Department of Education and Skills on this matter I am sure the Minister of State is familiar with it. I welcome Mr. Porfireanu and his wife to the Public Gallery. I know from my background as a trade unionist that this case is not unique but it raises serious issues concerning the award of public contracts.
Mr. Porfireanu successfully made complaints to the Rights Commissioner Service under the Payment of Wages Act 1991 and Terms of Employment Information Acts 1994 to 2001 relating to his employment with this contractor. The contractor appealed those decisions to the Employment Appeals Tribunal, which upheld Mr. Porfireanu's awards on appeal in March of last year. The value of these awards is €14,246, which is a sizeable sum, the vast majority of which is unpaid wages. When this exploitation took place, Mr. Porfireanu was employed by P.J. McLoughlin & Sons on publicly-funded projects in Coolock and adjacent to this House at the National Gallery. Attempts to contact the contractor to ensure he fulfilled his obligations to Mr. Porfireanu were met with frustration. Despite repeated attempts to discuss the matter throughout last September no reply was forthcoming. Mr. Porfireanu was forced to engage a solicitor to seek judgment for registration in the Circuit Court and subsequently an execution order to the Sheriff to seek to enforce the court order. The original award and subsequent judgment remain undischarged.
I refer to section 5.3 of the public works contracts which provides that contractors must observe employment law and legally binding determinations of the Labour Court. The contractor self certifies using standard form MF 1.13. that it is compliant in this regard. I am sure the Minister of State will agree that this was not respected in this case. Section 5 of the public works contract reflects the agreements reached on outsourcing in section 20 of the Croke Park agreement and section 3.3.5 of the Lansdowne Road agreement.
We should not accept that this contractor can be awarded public contracts and operate on those same contracts while failing to respect or comply with the decision of the state industrial relations processes and subsequent Circuit Court judgments. This contractor is currently engaged as the main contractor on two Department of Education and Skills projects in Westmeath and Kildare, namely, Curraghmore national school in Mullingar and the Mercy Convent primary school in Naas. The Minister of State will not disagree that Mr. Porfireanu, who is with his family in the Gallery, has been waiting too long to receive money that he worked hard to earn. This is an example of a migrant worker, working here legally and being exploited by an unscrupulous employer, one which continues to be rewarded by the Department of Education and Skills. It is bad enough that this employer refuses to discharge an award of the state industrial relations mechanisms and is in violation of a Circuit Court judgment relating to that award but it is considerably worse that he is able to flout the terms of the capital works contracts.
Is the Minister satisfied with the current methods for ensuring that contractors awarded State contracts respect our industrial relations processes and does he have plans to ensure that contractors such as P.J. McLoughlin and Sons do not obtain state contracts while violating the rights of workers like Mr. Porfireanu? Also, will he help this man who is owed €15,000? P.J. McLoughlin & Sons continues to be awarded contracts by the Department of Education and Skills despite that it is flagrantly in violation of judgments of the Labour Court. To be honest, it is but one of many such companies but the Minister of State needs to do something concrete to help this man to restore his confidence in this State. Mr. Porfireanu has done everything possible to try to get justice but the State has failed him on every occasion.