Trinity launches investigation into claims of underpaid construction workers

Allegations of underpaid subcontracted workers emerged in March

College has launched an investigation into claims that workers on the Printing House Square site have received hourly rates €2 to €3 lower than legal requirements.

Plumbers and apprentices on the site complained about their wages in February to Rob Kelly, a regional organiser for trade union Unite, while he was visiting the site, Kelly told the Dublin Inquirer.

Speaking to Trinity News, a spokesperson for College confirmed that it has since appointed Kevin Duffy, former chair of the Labour Court, to lead an investigation into the claims. Duffy is expected to review documentation provided by the main contractor, Bennett Construction Limited, and the subcontractor, GMG Mechanical.

The spokesperson said that College had decided to “appoint an independent consultant to ensure they are complying with legislation and to underline our sincere commitment to ensuring all workers on the project are treated fairly” and noted that “the claims made against BCL remain claims only at this point”.

The Dublin Inquirer reported that payslips for one apprentice dated February 22 and June 14 showed an hourly rate of €5.74 and €6.30 respectively. The entitlement rate for apprentices is €7.57. Additionally, a qualified plumber who began working on the site in June received €18 an hour in payslips from June 7 and 14, despite a sectoral employment order which outlines a €22.73 hourly rate for first-year qualified plumbers, which rises with further experience.

Kelly reports making contact in March with College, Bennett Construction Limited, and the subcontractor, GMG Mechanical, to raise the concerns.

The Dublin Inquirer reported that Kelly received an email from Trinity’s Chief Financial Officer Geraldine Ruane on March 15, which stated: “We have concluded that GMGMSL (GMG Mechanical Services Limited) has provided the necessary assurances to BCL (Bennett Construction Limited) as their employers that they are in compliance and this includes written confirmation from the Construction Workers Pension Scheme with regards to staff currently registered on the scheme.”

Kelly emailed a response on the same day to request a meeting in order to “illustrate the opposite to be the case”. Ruane responded on March 20 to note that “Trinity is not the employer of the workers concerned” and as such “cannot involve itself in industrial relations matters or disputes relating to employees”.

Following a protest outside College on July 11 by Unite organisers, Kelly and Unite’s regional officer for construction, Tom Fitzgerald, met with College on July 12 and July 21 and were informed that College would collect information from Bennett Construction to establish if GMG Mechanical was paying legal rates of pay to its workers.

The Printing House Square site has been one of College’s key developments in recent years and is expected to provide on-campus accommodation to 250 students upon its completion. Additionally, it is set to house a new Health Centre, Disability Service, and sports facilities.

Printing House Square sits on the Pearse Street site formerly occupied by Oisín House. The building, which was originally expected to be completed last year, has experienced delays due to resistance from An Bord Pleanála and An Taisce.

Lauren Boland

Lauren Boland was the Editor of the 67th volume of Trinity News. She is an English Literature and Sociology graduate and previously served as Deputy Editor, News Editor and Assistant News Editor.