Building Workers


Sir, - As I write two young men are going back to Mountjoy prison to spend another night for requiring their rights.

We face fairly simple questions. Are those who work in the black economy to be seen as villains who deliberately avoid paying tax and gaining the advantages which accrue accordingly to all legitimately working citizens of the state? Or are they troublemakers who, but for the building boom, would be unemployed? Should they be recognised for the work they do or should they be grateful to have a job at all?

Brief boom times make most for those who have most to begin with. A worker in the black economy works as hard as a legitimately employed worker. However, should he be sick, injured or otherwise unable to attend work the worker in the black economy effectively does not exist.

While an employer reaps the benefit of an invisible worker that worker will remain unseen, illegally providing an income for himself and his employer. Without rights or union representation (because he's not really there, is he?) he is not in a position to make demands of his employer or suddenly the job he is not really doing is not there at all. So, he has the choice to keep his mouth shut and get on with it or live on the minimum allowance provided by the state for those who cannot find legitimate work.

Are the reduced numbers of those drawing unemployment benefit matched by those who are paying for the state? If not, where are they and why do neither they nor their employers choose to provide the tax and social insurance which would at least benefit the employees in the future should they become unemployed?

Naively, perhaps, Mr McMahon and Mr Rodgers seem to think that the state ought to function for the welfare of its citizens rather than as a handy resource from which to provide labour for commercial interests. Princes of such an order (banks, for instance) make millions by not disclosing information and by withholding tax. McMahon and Rodgers are imprisoned for saying, "Hello, here we are and we want to pay our taxes and social insurance." After all, like the often hasty "restructurings" of corporate entities, which leave thousands out of work, building booms do not continue indefinitely.

An Tanaiste, Mary Harney, said recently that prisons were not built for the poor. Were she to examine the socio-economic breakdown of those who are in our prisons she should be aware how gratuitously obtuse is her observation. McMahon and Rodgers show contempt for the law and, perhaps, that is as it would be for as long as the law shows contempt for justice. - Yours, etc., B O'Doherty,

Carrickbrack Lawn,


Dublin 13.