Justice for Unpaid Sub-Contractors and Introduction of Protective Laws

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RE: Subcontractors involved in the building of Bundle 5 schools, Loreto Secondary School, Wexford.

 

Dear Minister McHugh,

We are the Justice and Peace Committee from Loreto Secondary School, Wexford and we are writing in relation to the injustice surrounding the subcontractors involved in the building of our new school.

Since the collapse of Carillion, the word “subcontractors” has become synonymous with our school. It has become a word and nothing more, when the reality is the subcontractors are a group of men and women whose lives and businesses have been seriously impacted upon as a consequence of their decision to take up a contract with the Sammon Group to build our school in Wexford. Subcontractors are not only the people involved in the building of the school but are also the suppliers of signage and furniture and providers of services such as landscaping and cleaning. Indeed, the large and small businesses that were involved as “subcontractors” represent a very large group, many of whom are a part of our local and school community.

When signing a government supported contract it would be easy to think that this would be a safe bet.  Unfortunately, we learned that this was not the case. Through loopholes in legislation, many of these subcontractors were unpaid for some or all work they had completed. Legislation, introduced in 2015 to protect subcontractors, failed to protect our subcontractors in this case. Richard Bruton, the former Minister of Education, said in June 2018 that the government would need to revisit said legislation. It seems to us that this hasn’t happened yet. In some cases, the subcontractors were not even on site for the specified number of days before the building development ceased. This meant that they had an even smaller chance of being paid than some other subcontractors involved in the building.

While we are aware that Carillion had held up their end of the bargain and paid what they owed, and it was the fault of Sammon that our subcontractors haven’t been paid, we are of the opinion that somewhere along the line there must be a fault in oversight by the government or an act of negligence that has led to the irreparable damaged to many livelihoods. It all leads to the question of how this came to happen? For such a big undertaking, considering six buildings are involved, it would be imagined that serious precautions would have been taken to ensure the appointment of more robust main contractors.

As referenced before, we, the students of Loreto Secondary School, Wexford, have reaped all the benefits from this school. It is a state-of-the-art facility of education. Although we are profoundly grateful for this, a dark cloud looms over the school. We refuse to let this dark cloud of unpaid professionals be our legacy. What we have found most upsetting is the lack of empathy for our subcontractors shown by the government.

We are not unrealistic, however, and understand that it may be out of the government’s control to repay all the money owed to the subcontractors. What we ask, is help to prevent a serious situation like this happening again. It is our belief that legislation should be put in place to protect the livelihoods of the men and women of Ireland who serve us so well as subcontractors.

We would be honored if your diary would allow you to visit our school so that we could discuss this more fully with you.

Yours sincerely,

Justice and Peace Committee,

Loreto Secondary School, Wexford.



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