Crisis in NCT centres unable to recruit enough mechanics
Posted on 17th October 2022 at 22:51
‘We are still falling short on the numbers required so we have been left with no alternative but look to recruit outside of Ireland’
Mechanics have said stagnant wages in their industry are reflected in National Car Testing (NCT) centres being unable to find sufficient staff as the service struggles to cope with waiting lists.
According to the Road Safety Authority (RSA), the organisation responsible for the testing system, test centres have faced ongoing recruitment problems.
The service, which is run by Applus+, currently employs more than 560 vehicle inspectors but is now attempting to source staff from abroad, and has been offering more shifts and overtime to try and boost capacity.
“Over the past two years, despite regular recruitment campaigns, NCTs has found it increasingly difficult to recruit sufficient qualified mechanics to meet the demand for National Car Tests, as they have dealt with testing backlogs,” an RSA spokesman said.
“This has been exacerbated by the related impact on the wider motor industry with regard to new car availability, leading to an increase in the number of older vehicles in the fleet requiring NCTs.”
However, according to Jimi Donohoe, who runs the Mechanics Association of Ireland, an informal Facebook based group with about 4,700 members, jobs across the sector are unappealing due to relatively low pay and the profession has become less attractive than other trades.
“The reason for that is historically there has never been strong union representation,” Mr Donohoe said, who is also chairman of the mechanics branch of the trade union Unite.
Mechanics’ pay varies between employers. An industry source said NCT staff typically earn between about €39,000 and €41,000 plus bonuses.
A spokeswoman for Applus+ said the company offers its inspection staff a permanent, pensionable job with a competitive salary and a performance-based incentive scheme.
“Their salary is reviewed regularly against national standards, and they have received a number of pay increases in recent years,” she said.
“It has been acknowledged by motor industry experts that there is a shortage of qualified motor mechanics within the EU. Therefore, despite our best efforts, we are still falling short on the numbers required so we have been left with no alternative but look to recruit outside of Ireland and this process is still ongoing.”
According to Mr Donohoe, the profession also lacks a sectoral employment order, which sets minimum rates of pay. Conditions have meant many mechanics are leaving the trade, often for alternative employment in places such as Intel, eating into any available recruitment pool.
Although motorists are complaining about having to wait periods of months to secure an NCT test, the RSA said the current average waiting time is 24.5 days.
Acknowledging an “especially challenging year”, it said the testing service was also coping with the fallout from Covid-19 that caused significant staff absenteeism. Problems are aggravated by a high level of no-shows for appointment slots.
“Every effort is being made to manage the demand at this busy time; recruiting additional vehicle inspectors including seeking to recruit from abroad and the provision of overtime to provide cover for leave and additional shifts for staff,” the spokeswoman said.
Last month, People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett sought an explanation from Government as to why the current average wait time in Dublin had reached six months.
“There is a history of mechanics having been paid very poorly,” he told The Irish Times. “They haven’t seen it restored and it’s not surprising that the NCT are finding it difficult to recruit.”
In response to Mr Barrett’s questions, Minister of State at the Department of Transport Hildegarde Naughton said delays in appointments that have arisen since the beginning of the year were considered a “serious matter”.
“I recently met with the authority to emphasise the importance of reducing the current test backlog as soon as possible,” she said.
As early as last March, the number of people on the NCT waiting list was more than eight times higher than in the year prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.
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