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What is the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA) for?

The mission statement for NERA is “To achieve a national culture of employment rights compliance”. According to their website, “NERA aims to secure compliance with employment rights legislation and to foster a culture of compliance in Ireland through five main functions – Information, Inspection, Enforcement, Prosecution, and the Protection of Young Persons.

So tell me then why this happened – Angry construction worker climbs crane in Dublin.

The gist of the story is as follows:

  • Paul Hansard (chairman of SIPTU’s Construction Branch in Dublin) worked for a scaffolding sub-contractor that went out of business last month.
  • A new contractor was to take on the contract, and Mr.Hansard would be employed by the new contractor.
  • The main contractor on the project (the new Sean O’Casey Community Centre at St Mary’s Road, East Wall, near Dublin’s Docklands) is Dublin based PJ Hegarty who claims to be “one of Ireland’s leading and most progressive building and civil engineering companies with an annual turnover of circa €330 million and in excess of 700 staff directly employed”. The new sub-contractor is G Mac Scaffolding, which is based in Strabane in Co Tyrone.
  • Mr. Hansard climbed a 52-metre crane on the site because he claimed his new employers were not complying with employment legislation by not paying pension contributions for Irish workers. According to Mr.Hansard, this is a widespread practice in the building sector and contractors are being allowed to get away with it.
  • Mr. Hansard told RTÉ News that it would be completely inappropriate for him as Chairman of SIPTU’s Dublin Construction Branch to work in a non-compliant company. He said he acted out of frustration in climbing up the crane but feared he may be unable to climb back down. Dublin Fire Brigade assisted him down after lunchtime.
So, a union official (presumably knowledgeable of the processes and procedures available to employees) felt that he had no option when it came to a perceived breach of employment law but to climb a crane.

Would it not have been safer for Mr.Hansard to bring this alleged breach to the attention of the National Employment Rights Authority? Is this not what they’re there for? Have we identified yet another useless government regulator?

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