SIPTU Construction Sector Organiser, John Regan, said: “The issues that have emerged in relation to 40 schools constructed by Western Building Systems highlights the need for change in the procurement and tendering policy in relation to publicly funded building projects.
“These issues have resulted in unnecessary stress, and in many cases expense, for parents of children attending these schools. What is unforgivable about the situation is that trade unions had engaged with Ministers in the previous Government in the lead up to the commencement of the tendering process for these projects. At this time, it was highlighted that not only should the protection of workers’ rights be a key consideration but also steps should be taken to ensure that the work was of the highest standard.
“We are now in a situation where the Minister for Education and Skills, Joe McHugh, announced this week that some form of remediation works will be necessary for all these schools. The cost of this work will, at least initially, be covered from public funds. The Department of Education has not given any indication of an estimate of what these costs will be.”
SIPTU Construction Sector President, Eddie Gunnery, said: “Neither SIPTU representatives nor any members of the Construction Industry Committee of ICTU have been consulted on this debacle in public procurement.
“Lessons must be learnt from this situation. These must include taking due regard of the views of workers’ representatives in relation to procurement processes involving public funds. Such tendering processes should also include a commitment that companies will respect the terms of the Sectoral Employment Order for the Construction Sector when seeking to be granted such projects.”
He added: “The clearly avoidable issues that have emerged concerning this public building programme must mark a watershed in how public funds are spent. Those who ultimately are found to bear responsibility for this debacle must be held accountable. Serious consideration must now be given to a new approach to public tendering. The ICTU must, on behalf of the tax payer, have a serious role in the new procurement process which is now required.”