Workers launch protest outside Ballymount agency over zero-hour contracts

by Mark O'Brien
Agency workers have been protesting outside O'Neill and Brennan in Ballymount

A group of building workers have launched a protest outside a Ballymount-based employment agency over what they are calling zero-hour contract practices which restrict their employment rights.

The group have been protesting outside recruitment agency O’Neill and Brennan since last week.

The company supply workers to the building industry but the protesters say that due to the nature of the contracts, they are afraid to raise any issues on-site out of fear of not being offered any further work.

One of the protesters, Keith Troy, told Dublin Gazette: “Basically what’s happening is, because we’re on zero hour contracts, we can’t even raise health and safety issues on the sites because if we do, what the builder is doing is the builder rings up the agency and says ‘listen, this fella is complaining, send us over somebody who won’t complain’.

“So you get left at home then for a day or two, or in some cases weeks on end without any pay because we’re on a zero hour contract.”

Keith said that some labourers were being sent to sites to carry out job that they were not qualified to do.

“The companies, after a few days, can tell these men are not qualified and they’re just kicking them off the sites.

“Some of these lads are afraid to refuse to go out to the sites because they won’t get any other work.”

There has been a steady increase in building firms using recruitment agencies rather than directly employing labourers since the financial crash of 2018.

People Before Profit TD Brid Smith said that she fully supported the protest and called for an end to the “Victorian practice” of zero-hours contracts.

“Firstly, I call upon the employers here to listen and negotiate with these workers, she said.

“It is not acceptable that workers should have to work and live with such precarious and low hours contracts in 2018.

“There has been a huge increase in bogus self-employment, while 163,000 are in a job where their usual hours vary from week to week.

“We have fewer permanent jobs now than 2008. This protest highlights the continued failure of this Government to actually defend ordinary workers from this kind of Victorian practices.

“This is an important stand for all workers and I urge the trade union movement to get behind these workers.”

A spokesperson for O’Neill and Brennan said: “O’Neill and Brennan recognises and engages constructively with all staff unions and is currently engaging on matters raised by three staff.

“Staff safety is and always has been of paramount importance for O’Neill and Brennan and that is reflected in robust health and safety processes and an impeccable safety record.

“O’Neill and Brennan is highly regarded within the construction industry as a fully compliant, ISO accredited, specialist recruitment agency.  Agency staff benefit from pay and conditions of employment, including pension entitlements, on par with leading employers in the industry.

“At any given time, upwards of 80% of the agency’s workforce work a full five day week, often on projects of long duration providing significant clarity, certainty and stability of income and working hours.”

 

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