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Claims about bogus self-employment in construction 'grossly exaggerated'

Michelle Hennessy
michelle@thejournal.ie

The construction industry’s representative body did acknowledge a reluctance in contractors to directly employ workers and said the government needs to make this more attractive.

THE REPRESENTATIVE BODY for the construction industry has said claims of high levels of bogus self-employment in the sector have been “grossly exaggerated”.

Earlier this month a new construction-union called Connect pledged to eliminate what it described as the “scourge” of bogus self-employment in the building industry. The union claimed members were being forced by their employers to register as sole traders rather than being directly employed by the companies.

There have also been a number of small protests recently against the use of agencies and zero-hour contracts by construction companies.

Director general of the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) Tom Parlon, told TheJournal.ie that there has been a move away from direct employment, not just in Ireland but internationally. However, he said the scale of this has been “grossly exaggerated”.

“There are a lot of self-employed people, specialist workers, who legitimately work in the industry. But what you have to understand is that if a contractor gets the 100 people he needs to work, he can only give them that work while the job is on. After that he doesn’t have work for them.

Traditionally, there was a facility where if you had to lay off people you could claim back 60% of the redundancy from the government. That was dropped entirely and the main reason it was dropped apparently is because you had big multinationals building call centres, getting grants to set them up and then two years later closing them down, claiming the redundancy and starting them up under a different name.

“And the construction industry lost out. There has been a disincentive for employing a massive number of people directly. If I employ people directly, then I have to factor in redundancy to my financial plans because I might not know if I have another job after this one is finished.”

Though he did not accept there was a “massive problem” in this area, he said his organisation is encouraging contractors to hire directly to give workers more security. The government will have to look at initiatives to make direct hiring more attractive to these firms in order for this to work, he said.

“Every construction project is obliged to pay the sectoral employment order [which set new rates of pay and made it compulsory for employers to provide a pension and sick pay scheme] and those rates are very high. We are working hard so that the construction industry is a good place to work.”

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