Council Briefs: Clamping Down on Bogus Self-Employment, and More

A Clamp-Down

It’s come up a bunch of times on building sites – complaints from trade unions that construction workers are being treated by subcontractors as self-employed, rather than put on payroll.

The council now plans to hire an independent auditor to do spot checks of council building sites regularly, said Dublin City Council housing manager Brendan Kenny, at a meeting of the Central Area Committee at City Hall on Tuesday.

The auditor will also be there “ready to jump in and investigate when we do have complaints. Because I don’t think we’ve had enough oversight of it,” he said.

Four independent councillors – Nial Ring, Cieran Perry, Anthony Flynn and Christy Burke –had put forward an emergency motion raising concerns about the treatment of some workers on two active sites, one on Dominick Street in the city centre and another at Cornamona Court in Ballyfermot.

Subcontractors aren’t following the rules for construction sectoral employment orders, “resulting in workers not being covered for pensions, sick pay and death in service”, the motion says.

The independent auditor’s first job is going to be to investigate those two cases, said Kenny, the council housing manager.

While there are strong provisions in council contracts around working conditions, the council’s main focus has in general been making sure projects run to schedule, he said.

But “we’re getting more and more complaints about that”, he said, of the concerns around how workers are hired.

Perry, the independent councillor, said he was delighted that there would be an independent auditor. It needed to be made known across sites that the council would not allow “rogue employers”, he said.

Labour Councillor Marie Sherlock said the council has many construction sites due to come online soon: “We need a system put in place.”

O’Devaney Edges On

Dublin City Council is seeking expressions of interest from approved housing bodies (AHBs) to manage the new housing development at O’Devaney Gardens.

The plan is for 824 homes, including 50 percent private homes, 20 percent “affordable” homes (which will also be privately purchased), and 30 percent social homes.

AHBs are housing charity that normally manage social housing – but some have expressed an interest in managing cost-rental developments too.

There are 56 social homes already being built on the council-owned O’Devaney Gardens site in Stoneybatter, set to be completed by March 2021, according to the Dublin City Council call-out.

In November last year, Dublin City Council chose, and most councillors voted to back, developer Bartra Capital as a partner to build the rest of the homes.

According to the council’s current call for expressions of interest, the management of the development “provides an exciting opportunity for an AHB or a number of AHBs to manage some or all of the development, with a specific opportunity of negotiating with the developer to acquire 30% of the private units for the purposes of a cost rental scheme”.

Councillors signed up to the deal after negotiating with the developer to allow for an option to sell some of the 50 percent of homes destined to be private to an AHB to be used for a cost-rental scheme. However, it was unclear whether the Department of Housing, which holds the purse strings, was willing to fund that.

A spokesperson for the Department of Housing said that: “As agreed with DCC [Dublin City Council], the Department will directly fund the development cost of the 192 social housing units, along with 56 additional social housing units already under construction on an adjoining piece of land,” he said.

The Department of Housing will provide €10 million in infrastructure funding too, he said. They didn’t mention the cost-rental homes.

The closing date for submissions from the AHBs is 27 March, and the council plans to appoint an AHB by 17 April, according to the call for expressions of interest.

Dublin City Council did not respond in time for publication to a series of questions about how the arrangement with the AHB would work.

Seeking a Safer Crossing

Dublin City Councillors have asked for interim safety measures to be put in at Ravensdale Park in Kimmage while they wait for a more long-term solution. They’re worried about pedestrians crossing the road.

“I don’t think that any councillor sitting around this table just points out spots and says, ‘I’m just going to annoy people and ask for a pedestrian crossing,’” said Social Democrats Councillor Tara Deacy.

Deacy was speaking at a meeting of Dublin City Council’s South East Area Committee at City Hall on Monday.

Deacy said she’d gotten a response from council managers that putting in a permanent pedestrian crossing between Ravensdale Park and Kimmage Road Lower would cost €250,000. Which she said she was not happy with.

“I’d paint the yellow lines myself and I don’t mean that in any kind of a disrespectful way,” she said. The price is insane, she said.

The €250,000 price tag to put in a traffic-calming measures is insane, she said.

Independents 4 Change Councillor Pat Dunne said he has previously raised this issue with the council’s Traffic Advisory Group.

But Dunne said the response from the group was that the funding wasn’t there for a pedestrian crossing at Ravensdale Park this year.

It is not as simple as putting in a pedestrian crossing, said Dublin City Council Senior Engineer Neil O’Donoghue.

“You just can’t add one pedestrian crossing onto it. The whole junction just has to be rewired,” said O’Donoghue.

Rewiring would mean having to update another junction, which has been in need of an upgrade for the last 10 or 15 years, said O’Donoghue.

However, funding could be made available for this in the future as the junction is on the BusConnects system, said O’Donoghue.

“So that’s why we are trying to get the job done through them so we could keep our funding,” he said.

There have been complaints in the past, across the city, about budget constraints, and grand transportation schemes delaying efforts to put in simple things like pedestrian crossings.

Accessibility at City Hall

Labour Councillor Mary Freehill says she’s asked many times for railings to be installed on the steps up to City Hall.

The steps outside are “lethal” and people have fallen on them, Freehill said at the South East Area Committee meeting.

Freehill read from the response she’d had from council managers. “There is a concern about interfering on the original material and design of the entrance and whether a planning process might be needed to undertake this work,” she said.

If this is the requirement, then so be it. “Surely safety comes before everything else,” Freehill said.

Fellow Labour Councillor Dermot Lacey supported her motion to provide access to all Dublin City Council buildings to people with disabilities.

“It is an old building and there should be conservation, but it’s also a public building and the public should have access to the building,” he said.

“People’s access has to take precedence over architectural niceties,” he said.

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Authors:

Lois Kapila: Lois Kapila is Dublin Inquirer's editor and general assignment reporter. She covers housing and land, too. Want to share a comment or a tip? You can reach her at lois@dublininquirer.com.

Donal Corrigan: Donal Corrigan is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer. He covers transport, and the southside. To get in contact with him, you can email him on donal@dublininquirer.com

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