Pupils back in classroom as workers return school doors
BUILDING subcontractors involved in a stand-off at a school over unpaid wages have received 40pc of what they are owed and are expected to get a further payment next week, the Irish Independent has learned.
Students at Kilfinane National School returned to their desks yesterday after the seven-hour stand-off involving parents, teachers and subcontractors the night before.
The controversy arose after subcontractors stripped the €1.7m school of doors and other fittings because they claimed they had not been paid for work they carried out.
The workers claimed they were owed between €14,000 and €20,000 from the main contractor, DPB Construction of Roscrea, Co Tipperary, which has been paid in full by the Department of Education.
Subcontractors agreed to return the furnishings taken from the school after being served with a High Court injunction late on Thursday night.
The resolution also resulted in an agreement with the Department of Education which gave an assurance to the subcontractors that it would not withdraw from the contract with the main contractor, which is still live.
It was agreed that the subcontractors would receive 40pc of the outstanding payments yesterday followed by another 20pc next week.
Subcontractor Mike Brown, a self-employed electrician who was involved in Thursday's protest action, confirmed that the workers received 40pc of what they were owed.
"It broke our hearts to upset children in Kilfinane. I have a family myself and it's the last thing I wanted to do but we would have ended up with nothing otherwise," the father of seven claimed.
In a statement, DPB Construction said the sub-contractors "have received substantial payments to date and the company was involved in negotiation to settle outstanding final monies and work-related matters".
Meanwhile, the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) has claimed the delay in enacting legislation which would ensure contractors and subcontractors receive prompt payment for their work will result in similar incidents.
According to the CIF, 925 days have elapsed since the legislation was introduced.
"What we saw at Kilfinane National School is a further example of what is happening in the construction industry throughout the country," according to CIF director general Tom Parlon.
"Subcontractors and main contractors are having problems securing payments and that is leading to long, unresolved disputes which are putting construction workers under huge financial pressure and stress," he added.
Mr Parlon said the CIF does not condone the taking of materials from any school, but insists subcontractors are being "driven to drastic measures".
"The legislative gap is making it very difficult for construction workers at all levels to put bread on the table and look after their families," he said.
According to Mr Parlon, to help prevent these problems arising Senator Feargal Quinn introduced the Construction Contracts Bill in May 2010.
"Unfortunately 925 days have now elapsed since then – that's two years, six months and 25 days.
"You'd think that would be a sufficiently long period for any piece of legislation to be agreed, drafted, debated and signed into law. This is an absolute disgraceful display of foot dragging by the Government. You might be able to understand this kind of inaction if it was a controversial piece of legislation. But it's not. It has cross-party support," he said.