Construction worker tells WRC former employer ‘made a fool’ of him

Former boss maintains employee was on a three-month ‘trial’ period

His former employer maintained the worker was on a three-month “trial” period and that it was the norm not to register an apprentice until an employer had seen how the worker performed. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin

A construction worker says his former employer saved over €5,000, wasted months of his life and “made a fool” of him by paying him as a first-year apprentice plumber without registering his apprenticeship.

Giving evidence to the Workplace Relations Commission on Thursday, the worker also said he believed his final payment from the company appeared as “Unite the union” on his bank statement because he said he would go to the union and his boss had “found it amusing”.

His former employer maintained the worker was on a three-month “trial” period and that it was the norm not to register an apprentice until an employer had seen how the worker performed.

Joshua Daly had lodged a complaint under the Payment of Wages Act 1991 against Lynch Gilligan Plumbing & Heating Ltd, accusing it of failing to adhere to the pay rates and pension contributions required by law in the building trade.


“To this day I’m still trying to get forward in my apprenticeship and I haven’t been able to do so because of the likes of Lynch Gilligan taking on cheap labour, abusing people for cheap labour and making false promises,” the worker said.

Mr Daly told the WRC he already had construction experience when he went to work for the company on 1st March 2023 at a site where a six-storey apartment block was being built and that he was doing duties “the normal, average first-year plumbing job plus a bit extra”, with pipe-fitting the primary task.

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“I was promised to be registered for SOLAS and I wasn’t, the company went bust so I wasn’t,” he said.

Andrew Turner of Hamilton Turner Solicitors, for the worker, put it to his client that another previous employer “had let you down” on registering the apprenticeship already, which the worker confirmed.

Mr Daly said that company director John Lynch, the sole representative of the respondent at the hearing, had undertaken to register his apprenticeship, but that it never happened.

However, he said he was paid at the “first-year standard rate” ... lower than the union’s rate”.

Mr Turner said his client’s case was that since his apprenticeship had not been registered, Lynch Gilligan ought to have been paying him as a general operative, a higher salary. The solicitor said the exact hourly rates being claimed for were set out in his submissions, but that the total loss his client was seeking for the difference in pay over three months on the job came to €5,108.53.

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Wages for plumbers and plumbing apprentices are set down in a 2018 sectoral employment order, with a first-year apprentice to receive 33.3 per cent of the €22.73 an hour due to a newly-qualified plumber.

“My final payment from Lynch Gilligan Plumbing, on the bank statement, [it] was changed to ‘Unite the Union’ because I’d said on site that I was going to go to the union and John found it amusing,” he said.

“I checked it out and it came from Lynch Gilligan Plumbing’s bank account,” he said.

“So, after not registering me for the time I worked for them, they made somewhat of a fool of me by then changing the statement to ‘Unite the Union’,” Mr Daly said.

“I was basically made a fool out of for the second time by a company and it was months of my life wasted,” he said.

The claimant confirmed in answer to Mr Turner that he was also seeking €343.80 in pension contributions and €577.29 for holiday pay and accrued annual leave.

He said while at work on 28 May last year, the foreman came and told him and his colleagues they were all being let go as Lynch Gilligan “went bust” and was “no longer a company”/

“But we now know it’s not bust, and Mr Lynch is here,” Mr Turner said.

Responding to the complaint, Mr Lynch said: “Initially when you start as an apprentice you get a three-month trial before you’re registered to see how you’re getting on.”

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“He’s after putting down that he did work 39 hours every week, he did miss a lot of time and unfortunately the company did go. We haven’t traded since that day,” he said.

“I’m chasing my tail now with bills coming in the door, this is just another thing on top of the pile that I have to deal with. I know this is unfortunate and I didn’t want to do this to Mr Daly,” he said.

Adjudicator Breiffni O’Neill asked Mr Lynch: “Where does it say there’s a three-month trial?”

“It didn’t say, it’s just usually that’s what I thought it was, when I served my time I’d to do a three-month trial,” he said.

“The law requires you, if you’re paying somebody the apprenticeship rates, to register them as an apprentice,” Mr O’Neill said.

“Right well, I wasn’t aware of that at the time and apologise for that,” Mr Lynch said.

“You heard what he said in relation to the last payment – on his bank statement, the words ‘Unite the Union’ was put in. Were you trying to gaslight him?” Mr O’Neill asked.

“Not at all, I don’t know where that came from. We just paid him as far as I know. I don’t know how that happened,” Mr Lynch replied.

Mr O’Neill said he would issue his decision in a number of weeks.