20 January 2000 Edition
Workers in struggle
Construction workers vote for one day stoppage
The general operatives who work in scaffolding and general construction activities on site are the lowest paid workers in an Irish building industry that has never been more profitable
BY ROBBIE MacGABHANN
Over 400 construction workers, members of the Dublin Alliance of General Construction Operatives (DAGCO), met at Dublin's Liberty Hall on Wednesday, 19 January, and voted unanimously to hold a mass one-day stoppage on Dublin's building sites on 16 February.
DAGCO which is aligned with SIPTU was promised a pay review last May. The general operatives who work in scaffolding and general construction activities on site are the lowest paid workers in an Irish building industry that has never been more profitable. Many earn as little as £6.20 an hour, working 10-hour days.
In May, DAGCO were told by the director general of the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) that a root and branch review of their pay and conditions would take place. A report was supposed to be produced in September and wage increases would be paid by December. None of these promises have been delivered on.
DAGCO are also concerned about the lack of initiatives on the health and safety issues affecting construction workers. DAGCO chairperson Paddy Burke told An Phoblacht that this is a major issue for his members. They want to ``win a safe working environment for building workers on all building sites''.
The other issue raised at yesterday's meeting was the use of agency workers on building sites. Many of these workers earn as little as £5 an hour even though the agencies that hire them earn substantially more than that for placing them with building contractors seeking workers.
There is now almost a month before the proposed DAGCO stoppage. It is now up to the CIF to move and fulfil their promises to the general construction operatives.
Undergraduate nurses march
About 120 student nurses marched in protest this week in Galway. They were protesting at the fact that they are the only undergraduates who don't get grants and must pay fees out of their own pocket.
All have completed their three-year diploma courses and have been accepted to enter their fourth year degree course. Fees for all third level education were abolished in 1997, except for nursing courses. Student nurses have to find £2,317 each before they are allowed to register. All but four or five students out of the 107 eligible students have refused to pay these fees.
Paddy Jordan, student union president at NUI Galway, says: ``Hospital beds are being closed through lack of nurses, yet these students have to pay for their course out of their own pockets. Because the students can't afford the fees, they have not been allowed to register. Unless something is done, the fourth year nursing course at Galway this year will not go ahead.''
On Wednesday, 19 January, representatives of the nursing students met with the Taoiseach in Roscommon. At time of going to press the outcome was not known.