Liberty Hall proposal not just another office block
After canvassing Siptu members, the response to the union’s plan was that we should build a structure of which the State could be proudFRANK McDONALD (Decision on Liberty Hall demolition will shape city skyline, July 19th) has once again raised questions about Siptu’s proposal to redevelop Liberty Hall.
He and I had a discussion on these matters prior to the publication of his recent article, but unfortunately very little of what we discussed is reflected in the piece. Given the significance of this development it’s important that the record is put straight.
The main reason why Siptu is proposing to build a new Liberty Hall – not simply demolish the existing building as the article’s headline suggests – is because a number of expert studies concluded that the current building is no longer fit for purpose.
The fundamental problem is that the size and location of its circulation and services core – which accounts for about 40 per cent of the building’s floorplate and includes toilets, stairs and lifts – allows only for a necklace of narrow offices running around three sides of its perimeter. This type of space is totally inappropriate for a modern open-plan, team-orientated workplace.
An assessment of the existing building was carried out by Arup consulting engineers to discern whether refurbishment was a viable option. While Arup found that its ventilation and temperature control problems could be ameliorated, they also concluded that the present Liberty Hall’s form and shape could not be altered to produce the type of office space Siptu needs.
The main stairwell and lift shaft are core to its stability so there is an unbreakable structural constraint on increasing the current building’s useable floor area.
Having come to the view that the existing building wasn’t fit for purpose, Siptu did look at relocating. We canvassed the views of our members and they responded strongly that Siptu should continue on the current site, given its historic links to the 1913 Lockout and 1916 Easter Rising, and put in place a building of which the country could be proud.
The union’s floorspace needs were referred to in the article. At the recent oral hearing, Siptu confirmed that while our current needs would be 10 or 11 floors of the redeveloped building, this does not include the four floors proposed for visitor/heritage activity.
Our requirements are changing due to the fact that we are in the middle of a five-year process restructuring Siptu into an organising union. What does this mean? Siptu is now engaging with thousands of workplace representatives with a view to organising the hundreds of thousands of workers who are not union members and do not enjoy the benefits of union support on issues such as job protection/preservation, pay and conditions of employment.
In addition, the union has moved from the old geographic branch structure to a divisional one focused on different economic sectors which requires more space for interaction among our staff and activists. Indeed, the wider trade union movement is also reviewing its operations and the net result of this is that Siptu’s space need is likely to be greater than it now is. If the union is to prudently prepare for the future it cannot simply restrict itself to 10 or 11 floors.