Concern at shortage of workers to repair roads

Street and beach cleaning may be outsourced by Cork County Council as officials “toy with the idea” of concentrating more outdoor staff into maintaining 12,000km of roads, parts of which are in a serious state of deterioration.

Fine Gael councillor Michael Hegarty said there were major problems with the council’s ability to keep roads in good order.

“Due to the nature of the [outdoor] work there is a higher level of absenteeism. Most of these workers are 50-years-old and upwards and there is a lot of long-term sick leave,” Cllr Hegarty claimed.

A number of road workers have retired recently and have not been replaced due to a recruitment embargo imposed by the Department of the Environment.

“If the embargo is not lifted we will have to seriously look at subcontracting these works. It’s at crisis stage,” he warned.

Cllr Noel Collins (Ind) proposed that the National Roads Authority should be requested to divert some of its money from tolls to employ staff to repair minor roads which, he said, were also in a shocking state in many locations.

Cllr John Mulvihill (Lab) said a wall had collapsed at Slatty Bridge on the main Carrigtwohill to Cobh road before Christmas and it still had not been repaired.

Meanwhile, Cllr Tim Collins (Ind) said a similar problem had developed at a bridge in Buttevant. He was concerned that it was potentially very dangerous for motorists, even though it had been cordoned off.

He believed it had not been repaired because the council did not have enough stone masons.

Cllr Barbara Murray (FG), who lives in Youghal said she was worried there were not enough staff to do street and beach cleaning. The last thing she wanted to hear, she said, was “us becoming known as the dirty Irish”.

Her party colleague, Cllr Noel O’Connor, agreed the council may have to look at subcontracting such jobs.

County manager Martin Riordan agreed if it was cost effective it might be possible to outsource street and beach cleaning to the private sector and he suggested this be debated at a forthcoming meeting of the council’s development committee.

Mr Riordan said local authorities had been particularly good at shedding jobs in line with government requirements.

He said some flexibility should be given to councils to break the employment embargo in key areas where they had become too depleted.

The manager said the council may consider doing more roadworks during the longer days in the summer.

It would, however, have to be discussed with the workers’ union representatives, he said.

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