Protests spread after group’s march on Dáil

HUNDREDS of angry Gama workers are today planning to target the company’s largest construction project, a Galway power station being built for the ESB in Tynagh.

Although the multinational construction firm continues to deny any wrongdoing, it was last month accused in the Dáil of siphoning millions from worker’s wages by Socialist Party leader Joe Higgins.

Until now the firm’s 800 Turkish employees, who claim they have been intimidated by the company, have been too frightened to come forward publicly.

But revelations last week that up to €40 million in worker’s wages is lying in previously unknown bank accounts in Amsterdam’s Finansbank led to yesterday’s 400-strong march on Leinster House.

And in an escalation of their demonstration the worker’s representative group - the Turkish Workers Action Group (TWAG) - last night agreed to bring their protest to Gama’s Galway site. The move comes as seven Gama workers in Tynagh were thrown out of their accommodation on Sunday night after they were identified by the company as having travelled to a meeting in Dublin on Sunday at which TWAG was formed.

Gardaí at Loughrea last night confirmed that the men had made formal complaints about being threatened which will now be investigated.

Workers present at yesterday’s march also said that about 30 Gama employees on a site in Ballymun had been locked in to prevent them from attending the demonstration.

Gama said it knew nothing of the Tynagh incident and maintained that the Ballymun workers had not been locked in but had decided themselves not to join the protest.

While yesterday’s action took unions by surprise, SIPTU and other unions have now agreed to participate in and support today’s demonstration.

Although the Gama workers have called for support from Irish construction workers, it was unclear whether significant numbers of Irish employees would be joining in today’s demonstration.

Mr Higgins, who has led the campaign against Gama from the beginning, said that yesterday’s march was proof that workers were being maltreated.

“It was plain for the world to see today that Gama was lying about the wages and conditions of their workers and that lie was refuted in the strongest way possible by Gama’s own workers taking to the streets of Dublin,” he said.

SIPTU construction branch secretary Eric Fleming appealed to Gama not to engage in any vindictive acts against workers.

“What we’ve heard today here is an outrage.

“We are now calling on the wider public to side with these workers,” Mr Fleming said.

In a statement Gama insisted that all its workers in Ireland are paid in full.

The company also said that “in order to avoid further confusion” it would issue a letter to every employee explaining how they could access their money in Finansbank.

Although the Finansbank accounts were opened after workers signed English documents they did not understand, the bank continues to deny any impropriety in its involvement.

“We emphasise that we have no information or indication that our bank is involved in any irregularities in respect of account opening with our bank for persons without their knowledge,” said Finansbank’s deputy chief executive Gert B Muller.

Meanwhile, Gama yesterday secured a week’s extension to a High Court injunction preventing the Government from publishing a Labour Inspectorate investigation into allegations against the company.

While it is known that the report calls for further investigations by the Director of Enforcement, Government sources said it would not be published before the company was given the chance to make a submission.

In the meantime Gama’s work permits remain suspended and the Government has forbidden the company from sending any employees back to Turkey without permission.

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