Allegations of non-compliance with labour legislation in respect of a major construction firm were raised in this House on 8 February 2005 by Deputy Joe Higgins. Those allegations were that certain non-national construction workers were required to work excessive hours and that such workers were in receipt of pay of between €2 and €3 per hour in contravention of the statutory minimums applicable.
The labour inspectorate of the Department undertook an investigation of these allegations. That investigation was completed within six weeks and required the exclusive attention of three labour inspectors under the direction of two senior members of staff. A report on the investigation was prepared and circulated to relevant parties, including the construction firm involved.
Subsequently, the Department was informed that the firm proposed seeking a judicial review with regard to the investigation and inspector's report. At an interlocutory hearing a judgment was given whereby the Department was restrained from publication of the inspector's report but permitted to forward the document to relevant prosecutorial bodies. On foot of this outcome a copy of the inspector's report was sent to the Department of Social and Family Affairs, the Revenue Commissioners, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Competition Authority, the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement and the Garda Commissioner.
The inspector's report was quashed in the judgment that followed the full High Court hearing of the case. That decision is being appealed to the Supreme Court. I am unable, accordingly, to elaborate any further on the content of the inspector's report or offer any observations on the actions that the prosecutorial bodies, mentioned above, may be considering.
The Minister, Deputy Martin, was concerned that all Turkish workers would have access to the money that had been transferred to their bank accounts in Finansbank in Amsterdam. To that end, the Minister and senior officials met with senior management from Gama Turkey and Gama Ireland, the legal advisers to Gama Turkey and a human resources consultant retained by Gama. At that meeting, the Minister was assured by these senior managers, their legal adviser and the human resources consultant that all Gama workers in Ireland, past and present, would have full access to the money that had been transferred to their bank accounts in Finansbank.
The Minister, Deputy Martin, contacted the president of Finansbank and was assured that, provided the consent of the workers was forthcoming, his bank would co-operate in ensuring that the departmental officials would have sight of relevant bank records in his bank so that they could be satisfied that all workers would have access to the money in their bank accounts. Officials of the Department travelled to Finansbank on 14 April last. Following these meetings and contacts which Department officials had with SIPTU and Deputy Joe Higgins, I am satisfied that a substantial number of Turkish workers, who were in Ireland around last April, received value for the funds that had been transferred to their personal bank accounts in Finansbank.
The Department wrote to Gama Turkey's legal advisers on 29 April 2005 seeking certain details on each current and former Gama employee, including the money transferred to Finansbank and the money transferred from Finansbank to their personal bank account in Isbank in Turkey. Despite reminders to Gama Turkey's legal advisers, and engagement with a PR company engaged by Gama, this information was not supplied at the time. In recent days a substantial volume of data has been presented by Gama to the Department. Department officials are currently examining this material. Pending the outcome of this examination, I cannot assure the Deputy that all Gama workers in Ireland, both past and present, have received value for the amounts that were transferred into their personal accounts in Finansbank.
In the meantime, there were ongoing contacts between officials of my Department and the company. Matters were brought before the Labour Relations Commission and then the Labour Court. Arising from these actions, substantial transfers of money were secured for workers in lieu of overtime worked. In addition, certain professional Gama workers, in respect of whom transfers were not made into Dutch bank accounts, were also awarded sums of money by the Labour Court. Many of these Turkish workers have now returned home.
A routine inspection by the labour inspectorate of Gama is now under way.