AKC News // Construction industry bosses could kill pay deal

The national pay deal looks certain to collapse after construction employers indicated they will refuse to pay wage increases to their 200,000 staff members.

In response, SIPTU has demanded the Government withhold lucrative state contracts from those employers, if they do not sign up to the deal drafted last week.

Representatives of the 3,000 members of the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) yesterday met to discuss the Government’s national wage proposal. It requires them, after a three-month pay pause, to pay their workers 6% increases over 21 months. Going into negotiations on that deal the CIF had demanded a 12-month pay pause in order to allow employers to ride out the current slump.

At yesterday’s CIF meeting, employee representatives said not only were the proposals unacceptable, but, given the state of the construction industry, they want to renegotiate the Registered Employment Agreement (REA), which governs terms and conditions for their staff.

The employers said the unions had shown total inflexibility in pushing for such a short pay pause at such an uncertain period.

Members said construction companies are already in firefighting mode and are often surviving on a week-by-week basis. The workers would still receive the 6% over the duration of the deal, but a 12-month pause would have allowed them to ride out the storm.

The employers said while companies in other sections of the workforce can claim inability to pay the terms of the new deal construction employers are prohibited from doing so by the REA. Therefore, they said the CIF needed to seek a review of the REA.

One construction source said given the likelihood of cutbacks in the national development plan in next month’s budget there would be even less work for the construction sector.

However, SIPTU president Jack O’Connor attacked the construction industry employers given that they “had made millions beyond their wildest dreams over the last 15 years”. He said the new wage agreement would fall if the construction industry did not sign up to it.

“If the agreement is not ratified by all the constituents, there is no agreement. We are not going to operate on the basis that workers receive entitlements on one side of the economy, but not on another.

“The Government must pay out taxpayers’ money to people who do not sign up to an agreement formed in the national interest.”

The CIF members will officially vote on the wage deal on October 21. Individual unions are meeting in the coming days to plan for ballots of their members.

Source: Stephen Rogers in The Irish Examiner

Date : 25-09-2008