AKC News // CIF decision on pay deal criticised by unions

Trade Unions are to press the Government to exclude building companies which do not meet increases under the national pay deal from State contracts following the decision of the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) to reject the new agreement and to seek a 10 per cent pay cut for workers.

The CIF said yesterday it would now lodge its pay-reduction claim with the joint industrial council in the sector. It expected that the matter would then be referred to the Labour Court.

Sources said the CIF could withdraw from a registered employment agreement - which traditionally has governed pay and conditions in the sector - if the Labour Court found against it.

More than 200,000 workers in the construction sector will be affected by CIF decision to reject the new pay deal.

CIF director general Tom Parlon said the draft national deal negotiated in September ignored the reality of where the Irish economy and the construction industry were today.

He said the bottom line was that the industry could not afford the deal and was seeking a 10 per cent reduction in order to safeguard jobs in construction.

"A 6 per cent increase was never realistic at a time when cost inputs have risen sharply, the housing market is at a standstill with house prices already down by over 30 per cent, and contracting companies are tendering 8 per cent below costs in an effort to keep some level of work going.

"Many companies are currently borrowing to meet their existing wage bill, which is totally unsustainable."

Mr Parlon said he hoped "the sensible line" that the construction industry had taken would be followed by other sectors.

However, the CIF move was strongly criticised by unions.

The general secretary of the Technical Engineering Union, Owen Wills, said the CIF move was "an unparalleled act of betrayal".

"Never before has a senior negotiator for the employers in the pay talks agreed terms and then gone straight out and actively campaigned to destroy the agreement."

Mr Wills said the union would also be calling on the Government to take action against CIF members "who think they can railroad through cutbacks in pay and conditions and ensure they do not continue making lucrative profits from public contracts".

Siptu president Jack O'Connor said it was ironic that the employers who benefited more than any other sector from the social partnership model that created the Celtic Tiger should be the first to renege on it.

"There are problems due to the economic downturn but the best way of resolving them is by utilising the infrastructure of the agreement, not by tearing it up.

"The CIF has forfeited all possibilities of doing so by denying building workers some degree of inflation-proofing for a few months - a classic case of cutting off the nose to spite the face."

Siptu said it would be joining with the other construction unions to develop a campaign in the industry to protect workers on a range of issues as well as pay, which it was precluded from doing under Towards 2016.

"However, we will be insisting that the Government honours its obligations under the agreement to ensure that only those employers who display a commitment to the national interest and adhere to national pay policy qualify for publicly-funded contracts."

Mr Parlon said the Siptu leader needed to come into the real world.

"He is concerned about standing over his deal. He seems to have little concern for the jobs that are being lost for his members.".

The Ictu and the employers' group Ibec, who have both ratified the deal, said it would apply in sectors other than construction.

Source: Martin Wall, Industry Correspondent in The Irish Times

Date : 27-11-2008