Article from the Nov 2004 edition, the Socialist
On 2 November three carpenters occupied a 200ft tower crane in Dublin for 30 hours in an attempt to save their jobs. Two of the protesters DAN O'CONNELL and DAN O'CONNELL SENIOR spoke to The Socialist
"A garda ordered us off the roof and we refused"
"GAMA Construction are carrying out a project for South Dublin County Council in Balgaddy. We got a job with a sub contractor working on site, P&M construction.
"Realising that we would not work on price, nor accept sub standard conditions and that we wanted to work PAYE the subbie rang us up and told us to draw straws as he wanted rid of one of us. This is despite the site safety officer insisting that three carpenters were needed to work on the roofs. The sub-contractor didn't care, he was thinking about his profit margins. We said no way. After that they went out of their way to drive us off the site.
"After working for three weeks we were called into the site office where they offered us Û770 in full and final payment to cover all three of our wages for nine days work. We turned this down because it worked out at about Û4 per hour, our regular wage is nearer to Û35 per hour. We decided to take the battle direct to GAMA who as the main contractor are the end users of our trade and our labour.
"We reported for work on Monday 1 November as usual, on Tuesday morning we did the same, but a police car was waiting and a garda ordered us off the roof and we refused. The gardai left to get re-enforcements. We knew they would get us off the roof easy enough, so we took refuge in the crane, figuring it was the safest place.
"We went up into the crane at 7.45am on Tuesday morning and remained there till 1.30pm the next day. We haven't been paid in three weeks, we all have families and with Christmas around the corner we have no option but to continue to fight this.
"While we were in the crane we got tremendous support, phone calls, texts messages along with almost a hundred co-workers, bricklayers, carpenters, labourers who turned up spontaneously on site for the two days to give their support. It meant a lot to have them there, waving up and showing their support, we heard there was other acts of solidarity on other GAMA sites, which we're grateful for.
"Inside the crane things were obviously very cramped. There was no chance of any sleep or rest, they erected four spotlights that were directed up into the crane, lights came right into the cabin blinding us through the night.
"We reckon we're owed around Û3,500 each for the work we have done, we won't stop until we get that. We were promised work on this site, we don't see why our money should go to rogue sub contractors who essentially act like pimps between the main contractor and workers.
"We want to work direct, PAYE with our pension and safety entitlements secured. GAMA are happy to do business with a subbie who has run off and stolen our wages as well as government tax. But more worryingly South Dublin County Council are happy to do business with GAMA.
"Its not just our experience that the council should take notice off. When we were up in the crane we saw that hundreds of Turkish workers not only work on site but live there too. It was a real eye opener, like modern day slavery, and any of them who complains is sent home. We think we have it bad but their situation is worse.
Motion from Socialist Party Councillor Mick Murphy
to South Dublin Council
"THIS COUNCIL notes that three men occupied a crane for 36 hours in a protest over pay on a site run by the GAMA contractors who are building houses for this Council in Balgaddy. These three men were being asked to do piece work for a man who was sub-contracted to a sub-contractor for the main contractor. In other words there were to be three levels of profit taken for the work these men were doing. In the end the man they were working for ran off after being paid by GAMA and they were not paid after three weeks on the site.
This Council agrees that this is a completely un-acceptable practice on a site being paid for by public money. Apart from the obvious level of exploitation of these men this sort of practice has to have tax and more importantly safety implications.
This Council asks management for a statement on this matter and agrees that all the main contractors on jobs for the Council should employ workers directly as PAYE."