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Council Staff Bring Case to the WRC Regarding Relocation to New Headquarters

Staff at Galway City Hall are set to bring their grievances to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) over the council’s €56.5 million relocation to Crown Square. This dispute involves members of the Fórsa trade union, representing local authority administrative staff, and engineering staff from SIPTU, who have collectively decided to seek adjudication on the 10th of July.

There is significant discontent among the approximately 250 workers currently based on College Road. Many feel they are being kept in the dark about the move, which is perceived as a major disruption. Private contractors have been hired to plan the fit-out of the new offices in Mervue, further agitating the Council’s own staff.

Rumours are also spreading that the cost of the fit-out is escalating, with some estimates suggesting it could exceed €20 million. Such a significant increase would necessitate approval from a majority of councillors. Staff are unhappy as they have not been given any clear details on the timeline, the sequence of the move, or what the process will entail. “We don’t know what’s happening, and it looks like they need more money to fit out the building. The whole thing is just a mess,” one staff member remarked. “We deserve to know what’s happening. They’re spending a fortune on this move, and we can’t get any answers.”

In light of this, there is growing talk among staff about seeking disturbance money, similar to the compensation provided to Dublin City Council employees during a recent move. “It has to be fair, and it is standard that there would be some compensation for a move,” said one City Hall worker. While this would likely increase the overall cost, many believe it is a necessary measure to ensure fairness.

The move to Crown Square was initially approved by councillors in July 2020, shortly after the Council Executive, led at the time by Brendan McGrath, unveiled the plans. During a council meeting, Mr. McGrath had dismissed the idea of paying disturbance money to staff relocating to Mervue. The financial arrangement for the new building includes annual repayments of around €2 million over 30 years to the State-owned Housing Finance Agency, with a fixed interest rate between 2% and 2.5%. The transaction to purchase the building from local construction company JJ Rhatigan was finalised in December 2022.

As the 10th of July adjudication date approaches, the outcome of the WRC case will be closely watched by all parties involved, as it may set a precedent for how such relocations and their associated costs are managed in the future.