In May 2010 Senator Feargal Quinn introduced the Construction Contracts Bill 2010 to the Oireachtas. This bill is intended to bring an end to the chaotic payment practices which dog the construction industry by affording contractors and, most pertinently, subcontractors with a range of statutory rights and implementing a fast track adjudication procedure to allow disputes to be settled in a timely manner. It has widespread support amongst contractors across the industry and also has the backing of the Construction Industry Federation.
Details of the Bill:
Construction Contracts Bill 2010 [Seanad] [PMB] (Number 21 of 2010) - Tithe an Oireachtais
A good summation of the Bill provided by Arthur Cox Solicitors:
The Construction Contracts Bill 2010: Overview | Projects Group Newsletter: On Track, Spring 2011 | Arthur Cox | Solicitors, Lawyers | Ireland
Anyone who has any experience of working in the construction industry, particularly since the economic collapse, will know how badly this is needed. Subcontractors are, to put it in simple terms, being screwed continuously by main contractors who are often acting in an unscrupulous manner rather than out of their own financial distress. Many jobs have been lost and many families have faced hardship as subcontractors, often very small or single man operations, are left high and dry by main contractors who have been paid in full and are left out of pocket and with no right to take back materials or goods supplied.
When the Bill was introduced in 2010 it was supported by the Department of Finance who took up the baton and ran with it. Unfortunately running obviously isn't their strong point as almost three years later and almost two years into the current administration the Bill has not been enacted and continues to crawl through the Oireachtas in a state of limbo.
Enough has been said and written about the unhealthy links between the bigger players in the construction industry and our political parties in recent years. We saw the introduction of improved standards for residential construction delayed until after the end of the housing boom.
Now we see the government enjoying plummeting tender prices for public works projects even though labour and material prices have not dropped by anywhere near that amount. If a contractor's tender is below cost then somebody has to lose out and invariably it's subcontractors who are left to carry the can.
So when will this be resolved? The Dáil debate last May on the Bill was littered with TDs expressing their wholehearted support and Minister of State Brian Hayes expressing his hope that it would become law before the summer recess. Eight months later and still nothing.
Do the government care about subcontractors or are they happy to string out the process while they get their projects built at below cost prices? With FF it was hardly surprising to see small contractors ignored but this government should be ashamed of their inaction.