Review of CSCS system demanded

Changes made to the system of issuing Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) cards for skilled workers must be reviewed. The call was made at a recent meeting of Cavan County Council when the issue was debated.

In April the government announced the development of a licensing model for certain construction and quarrying related activities that changed the current practice under which some workers in the sector are certified to undertake specific activities.

In its place operators of machinery will be required to prove they have the necessary skills and experience to maintain their licences on a regular basis.

But the move was slammed as a “money making” exercise by Fine Gael's TP O'Reilly who, while accepting the changes are intended to complement existing legislation in health and safety, said it was an additional cost, both in time and money for workers.

“I don't think there's a need for it,” he said of the new scheme, which does away with the current position where a person who receives their operator card can simply renew it in five years’ time with no need to re-certify or prove their competence.

The new ‘licence to operate’ model requires formal renewal.

“Who foots the bill?” asked Cllr O'Reilly of the loss of a member of staff to a business to complete the new course.

Cllr O'Reilly was supported by colleague Peter McVitty who was equally as scathing of the change. The haulier revealed that he has four cards to renew and referred to the new situation as a “desperate scam”. Cllr McVitty described the courses as nothing more than a “talking shop”.

There was support too for the motion, which puts pressure on Minister for Further and Higher Education, Simon Harris, and Minister of State for Skills and Further Education, Niall Collins, from Cllrs Trevor Smith and Carmel Brady.

The latter said she knows workers driving 40 years “with all the experience in the world” and stated that the loss of such essential workers would force the shutdown of sites at a cost of “thousands”.

Cllrs Winston Bennett (FG), Brendan Fay (Ind) and Paddy McDonald (SF) agreed, the latter calling into question how “young lads” driving large tractors often towing several ton loads were exempt from such scrutiny.

Cllr Aiden Fitzpatrick (FF) felt the same, as did Craig Lovett (FF) and Sean Smith (FF) who acknowledged that “young drivers are good drivers by and large”.

He added that silage contractors were now finding it hard to find drivers.

Cllr O'Reilly, who proposed the motion, returned to the debate by saying that most experienced drivers learned by working on the job and “not in a classroom”.

He said the same of young drivers, and that there was “nothing” they could learn about handling a machine by completing an online course.

“It would be important for them to have a ticket,” he said. “It would stand to them. Tractors are valuable machines.”