Unpaid contractors call for public support
Parents of children attending the Loreto secondary school in Wexford have been called on to support an ongoing protest by sub-contractors who have not been paid for work carried out on the building at Killeens.
The call came at a meeting in the Riverside Park Hotel, Enniscorthy which was chaired by Enda Whelan of Whelan Cleaning Systems, assisted by John Hennebry, and attended by local politicians and members of the public.
Enda Whelan explained that approximately 400 sub-contractors are owed in the region of €12 million for work on the PPP Schools Bundle 5 project,including the Loreto, resulting in the closure to date of about 40 companies.
Reporting on a meeting arranged by Deputy Brendan Howlin that took place in Dublin the day before with the National Development Finance Agency and the Government Procurement Office, he said the NDFA had picked holes in the case put forward by the subcontractors.
Mr. Whelan said the unpaid subcontractors didn't want to go down this route and wanted the schools to open as the people of Wexford, Carlow and Bray have waited a long time for new schools, but they needed to get paid first.
John Hennebry presented a letter in which he questioned flaws in the certification process as work carried out by sub-contractors on the buildings hadn't been signed off and schools without proper certification from the relevant sub-contractors, could prove to be illegal.
'If the schools are not properly certified, who is to say that they are fit for purpose and insurable', he asked.
'Simon Miller from Currie and Brown has been appointed as an outside certifier and we are challenging his legality', he said.
'We want to get paid for the work already done and then we want to get back into these schools and finish the work we started and get these schools open', said Mr. Hennebry, calling on parents and local T.Ds to support the campaign.
Speakers from the floor included Bobby Farrell from Bobby Farrell and Sons Painting Contractors who was summonsed to the High Court in an injunction case against the picketers. He said he was summoned to the High Court through no fault of his own and was only picketing like everyone else. He felt he might have been picked on as he had placards with his name on them.
He outlined the extreme strain that the situation has caused him and his family. He had to let 10 members of staff go as a result of not being paid and now he is facing a €4,000 bill for legal representation.
Independent TD Mick Wallace who attended the meeting said it's time that all subbies in the country stood together and formed a group to collectively represent them.
Lar Conway from Conway Piling spoke of working in Ireland and Poland and said if a main contractor goes bust in Poland, there is a fund that the subbies will get paid from. He said he is owed retention money and payment for extras and will withold his certification until he gets paid.
Loreto school principal Billy O'Shea spoke of being caught in the crossfire. He congratulated the group who attended the Oireachtas meeting and said the school's Board of Management fully understands the plight of the subcontractors.
Mr. O'Shea said he met with people on the picket line and was horrified to see hardowrking people having to resort to such measures to get paid for work carried out in good faith, and then to make matters works, to end up in the High Court at additional cost.
'This should have been a joyous occasion for Wexford', said the principal, adding that he had written a letter to all the parents asking them to contact their local TD's to get the situation sorted out.
The school has to open in the last week of August as the premises on Spawell Road cannot accommodate the extra students enrolled for the coming year and cannot accommodate new subjects and teachers, he said. Morally, he could not see why the Dutch Infrastructure Fund which is sitting on an asset management company of approximately €5.6 billion, would not pay the subcontractors and get on with opening the schools.
Cllr Willie Fitzharris called on local TD's to fight the subcontractors' case and said it was important to engage with parents of children in the school. 'We need people power, we need to get people out supporting the campaign', he said.
Seamus Murphy thanked the public and also said he would like to see more parents and children coming out to support them. He asked TD's to start helping instead of just turning up on the opening day.
Larry Power called on an Taoiseach Larry Power to come and meet them.