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Workers' safety at risk under EU apprenticeship proposals

13 November, 2006

Sinn Féin Worker's Rights Spokesperson Arthur Morgan TD today expressed concerns at the proposals contained in an EU funded project highlighted by the TEEU that will allow for craft-workers from Poland to come to Ireland and work as fully-qualified tradesmen after only 17 weeks training in their home country.

Deputy Morgan said, "In most cases it takes four years for an apprentice to be fully trained up in a trade. In this time they learn to conduct their work practices to a professional standard and, crucially, in a manner that is not only safe for the apprentice but also safe for those who avail of their services. We are now facing an incredibly worrying situation where a worker with just 17 weeks training could come here and legally do the same work.

"The workers who avail of this scheme in Poland are not brushing up on previously learned skills before they come to the state, they are starting from scratch and will be legally allowed ply their trade here after 17 weeks. Sinn Féin has consistently argued that safety in the workplace is of the utmost importance. This is even more so in the construction industry where most of these workers will find themselves and where they will face more perilous tasks than in the normal course of day-to-day employment. Twenty-three out of the 74 workplace deaths that occurred in 2005 were in the construction sector. Nine of the 43 that have occurred so far this year have also been in the construction sector. Even with four years training under their belts, construction workers risk their lives on a daily basis in this state and now the government are sanctioning a system whereby certain workers can be fully qualified to work in this sector in just 17 weeks.

"There are huge health and safety implications for this project. If four years has been deemed the appropriate length of time to complete an apprenticeship there can be no short cuts under any circumstances. These proposals if allowed to go ahead will make a mockery of the apprenticeship system and shows complete disregard for the apprentices and tradesmen and women throughout the state. Sinn Féin is calling for better work and pay conditions for apprenticeships during their four years and an end to these nonsensical proposals of 17 weeks training." ENDS

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