Contractors warn of possible lay-offs as crane drivers dispute escalates

Industry body says strike action by Unite threatens delivery of vital projects

Latest move marks an escalation in the six-week long dispute that is said to be costing the economy millions of euro. Photograph: Alan Betson

Latest move marks an escalation in the six-week long dispute that is said to be costing the economy millions of euro. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Several high-profile building contractors have placed workers on protective notice and warned of temporary lay-offs following an escalation of industrial action by crane drivers in a dispute over pay.

The employers represented by the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) said the action led by trade union Unite was unlawful and threatened the delivery of vital construction projects in Dublin and elsewhere.

“A number of multimillion euro projects, critical to international clients and in solving Ireland’s housing crisis are in danger of being put into enforced stasis by the action of Unite,” a CIF spokesman said.

“ A number of our members are now being forced into the extreme measure of shutting down sites due to the uncertainty being caused by Unite’s refusal to engage in established industrial relations protocols,” he said.

The move comes as crane drivers belonging to Unite resumed their strike action and signalled members may picket construction sites for two additional days next week, marking an escalation in the six-week long dispute.

‘Unsustainable’

Employers claim the pay increases being sought by Unite would represent rises of about 80 per cent over the next year, which they say is “unsustainable”.

The union, however, said the renewed strike action reflects its frustration at the ongoing refusal by the CIF to engage meaningfully with the union in respect of members’ legitimate pay demands.

It also argued that a proposed new sectoral agreement for the construction sector , which was drawn up by the Labour Court, could involve decreases in pay between 3 per cent and 15 per cent as it did not include traditional travel payments.

CIF members have individually and collectively been receiving legal advice on possible action against Unite on the grounds that it may flouted industrial relations law by organising strike action on certain sites without informing employers.