Underpaid and exploited

by Paul Healy  A leading SIPTU official this week told the Roscommon People that the union has received a number of anonymous calls alleging there is exploitation of foreign labourers by companies in County Roscommon.    There have been claims that some foreign workers are being paid about €50 a day on sites in County Roscommon – when SIPTU say the minimum salary payable to even an inexperienced employee in the construction business should be €14.17 an hour.    This week Mr. Pat McCabe, who is construction sector organiser with SIPTU, said that breach of Registered Employment Agreement rates in the West of Ireland are ‘rife.’    He told the People that a number of individuals had contacted SIPTU by telephone alleging under-payment by companies currently operating in County Roscommon. ‘The calls were anonymous, presumably because they feared repercussions,’ he commented.    Mr. McCabe this week claimed that hundreds of foreign and Irish labourers are being ‘brutally exploited’ on some of the country’s largest development projects. He alleges that migrant workers are being forced to work for a fraction of ‘agreed’ industry rates and further claims that in places around the country Irish workers have been forced to accept low pay after being threatened that cheaper, foreign labour is always available.    The West of Ireland was a particular problem because there was no ‘organised construction worker tradition’ here. Explaining, Mr. McCabe said that traditionally major construction went on cities and big towns and rural areas did not necessarily have trade union involvement. ‘As far as employers were concerned, there tended to be a Roscomon rate, a Sligo rate, a Mayo rate and so on.’      In relation to rates, the SIPTU spokesperson said that an inexperienced construction worker should be paid €14.17 an hour gross; an experienced employee should receive €15.58 an hour. A scaffolder or teleporter driver should be paid €16.12 an hour.    ‘Non-co-operation on building sites is rife,’ he said, ‘the greatest exploitation is taking place