A Fianna Fáil councillor, who runs the Irish Stable Staff Association, is on record that he will not repay an “overpayment” of €15,000 and warns that others would “go down” with him if he “fell”. ” would.
Irish Stable Staff Association (ISSA) chief executive Bernard Caldwell is said to have made the comments at a meeting in November 2019 to discuss the organisation’s draft financial statements.
The minutes note a “€15,000 overpayment made over two years” to Mr Caldwell and a “salary increase for BC to ensure this does not happen in the future”.
According to the minutes of the meeting, Amanda Lacey, a secretary and director of the ISSA, asked how the overpayment could be repaid.
Mr Caldwell’s alleged response is as follows: “BC stated that he was not repaying the money. He also stated that if he was tripped, he would trip others as well; he would not go down alone.”
Mr Caldwell said that Sunday independent this weekend that he “really” doesn’t remember making the remarks and doesn’t recall seeing the minutes of the meeting. He said the overpayment related to his travel allowance and “that was all paid for and sorted out”.
Although he couldn’t recall making those remarks, Mr Caldwell said: “Maybe you say those things because people sometimes annoy you and try to brand you for something you’re not.”
Pressing the comments later, Mr Caldwell said: “I can’t change that. If that’s in, that’s in. I can’t really remember. I mean, some of these meetings just go on and on and people say things. I really don’t know, I really don’t know.”
Mr Caldwell, a Fianna Fáil councilor at Kildare County Council, has been Chief Executive of the ISSA since 2007, was also its former Chair and until earlier this year sat on the board of Horse Racing Ireland, the state agency that runs the sport.
The ISSA is funded by the horse racing industry to represent the interests of stable staff, who are among the lower paid workers in a sector valued at €1.8 billion. It receives around €120,000-130,000 a year funded by a share of racing prize winnings and distributed by Horse Racing Ireland (HRI). It also receives a percentage of a stable employee bonus program.
Mr Caldwell said that Sunday independent his salary at the ISSA is 23,000 euros, and when he took the job he worked “for nothing” for the first year and later took half the salary of his predecessor. “That has never changed through 2020,” he said. “I was willing to do it because there was no finance in the organization at the time.”
He said he clocks up “massive” miles of up to 60,000 a year when he travels to racecourses representing stable staff as part of his job as CEO, and sometimes doesn’t claim everything he’s entitled to.
“We all know how many miles I’ve put on and they’re pretty happy you’re working for free and it’s not fair. I think I believe in being fair with people and that’s what we’re trying to be. If you do 60,000 miles a year on a small mileage allowance, you wouldn’t do it, you’d stop,” he said. “Unless you start getting into the racetracks, there’s no other way to get there.”
Also present at the meeting where Mr Caldwell made the alleged remarks were ISSA Directors Pat Curran, Amanda Lacey, Treasurer Michael Maher and a representative of the Association’s accounting firm, Greely & Co.
Mr Maher and Ms Lacey, who is no longer on the board, declined to comment. Mr Curran did not respond to questions submitted by the Sunday independent.
The transcript is part of a tranche of internal ISSA records leaked to independent Kildare Councilor Fiona McLoughlin Healy, who said concerns about the organization were first raised a number of years ago.
The minutes of the November 2019 meeting to discuss the 2018 draft financial statements noted that Mr. Caldwell “approx. €60,000” was paid between wages and expenses.
Minutes of a February 4, 2020 meeting to discuss Mr. Caldwell’s terms and conditions note “some back-and-forth about taxes” and a discussion of his expenses.
Mr Curran is said to have said: “We cannot continue with spending like last year, we have to look at revenue”.
The minutes contain proposals for Mr. Caldwell’s salary and expense claims, ranging from “€40,000 salary and €20,000 expenses” to “€30,000 salary and €23,000 expenses” and “BC Counterproposal: €35,000 and €23,000 expenses”.
These minutes also note the Treasurer, Mr. Maher, who states that between €10,000 and €12,000 are paid annually in expenses to the Manager and Treasurer.
The records also include an email forwarded to the ISSA email account from Mr Curran’s Gmail account in February 2019, relating that Mr Maher and Mr Curran “spending between €350 and €450 each month ” receive.
In the minutes of a meeting last November, a briefing by a corporate governance expert notes that a “full and comprehensive review” of governance structures and procedures had been carried out.
“He also stated that we are not doing anything wrong but must update our systems in line with the boards’ guidelines,” the minutes read.
The leaked records follow revelations in the Sunday independent last week on the HRI’s concerns about governance, spending at the ISSA and the Association’s lack of registered members.
Although paid to represent the country’s 2,500 to 3,000 stable workers, the ISSA has no official members. This means that barn staff have no formal influence over the organization set up to represent them. According to correspondence between the organizations, the HRI has repeatedly informed the ISSA that there is a need to recruit members, introduce an identity card and focus on the representation of stable staff.
Mr Caldwell has attributed the lack of members to the “temporary” nature of the staff and a reluctance to share names and addresses.
However, another leaked email dated 28 November 2019 reveals that the Irish Racehorse Trainers Association (IRTA) has refused to negotiate with the ISSA on staff salaries and conditions until the organization is “properly organised”.
Responding to Mr Caldwell’s request for a meeting, IRTA Chief Executive Michael Grassick said “it has been decided” that “no new discussions on pay and conditions will take place between the two organizations until the Irish Stablestaff Association is properly organized and representative of all working people.” Stable worker is in the industry”.
Mr. Grassick said that Sunday independent this weekend that IRTA members are “registered”, “we know exactly who they are, names, addresses, the whole lot, while the stable staff doesn’t have that”. He said IRTA began preliminary talks with the ISSA two weeks ago, although to his knowledge “nothing has changed”.
The staff the ISSA is paid to represent are often heralded as the invisible ‘backbone’ of the industry.
A steady hand that spoke to him Sunday independent listed, on condition of anonymity, some of the problems affecting stud and stable staff as grueling work schedules during the racing season with long travel times; poor food in some canteens for racecourse stable staff and inconsistent facilities for female stable staff. The basic pay is €10.75 per hour plus meals for race days from €50 to €80.
Last month stable workers at Kilbeggan Race Course protested after being charged €1.50 for a bottle of water in hot weather. Bernard Caldwell intervened on behalf of the stable staff and ensured that free water was provided so the races could continue.
Ms McLoughlin Healy said poor corporate governance “can have a very significant and negative impact on people’s lives”.
“Since concerns about the ISSA were first brought to my attention several years ago, I have spoken both to people within the ISSA … I have spoken to stable staff who have been undermined, dismissed or even threatened, to the point where they are afraid to speak out publicly for fear of losing their jobs.
“Livelihoods and physical and mental well-being have been compromised and the needs and concerns of barn staff ignored.”
She said an “immediate and meaningful attempt” must be made to register all barn staff as members of the association and that an extraordinary general meeting should be called to allow those members to raise matters concerning them with the board. She also called for an independent review of the organization.
“There has never been a more opportune time to consider a stable staff union to bring about the far-reaching changes needed in the industry,” she said.
Mr Caldwell declined to answer written questions from the Sunday independent However, he forwarded a text message he received from a groom that read: “I don’t see you doing anything wrong” and praised the club’s “compassionate, helpful approach”.
The ISSA did not respond to questions. Board members include Ger Flynn (the ISSA Candidate to the Board of Horse Racing Ireland), Pat Curran, Michael Maher, Shane Lyons, Pat O’Brien and Niall Amond. Sean Power, the President of the ISSA, recently resigned as Director.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/news/irish-stable-staff-association-leader-in-row-over-15000-overpayment-vowed-to-take-down-others-with-him-41959734.html Irish Stable Staff Association leader over €15,000 overpayment vowed to ‘take others with him’