Construction workers face 7.5% pay cut

 

CONSTRUCTION WORKERS are facing a pay cut of 7.5 per cent following a Labour Court recommendation yesterday.

The Construction Industry Federation had sought a cut of 20 per cent in workers’ wages.

In a submission to the Labour Court, it had argued the industry was going through probably the most severe and rapid downturn it had ever experienced.

Employers could no longer afford to pay wage rates negotiated between employers and unions under a registered employment agreement.

It had said that more than 200,000 employees had lost their jobs and hundreds of companies had folded.

Unions had argued that a pay cut would result in severe financial hardship for workers and would not create any new jobs.

Yesterday, the Labour Court highlighted a link between the pay for construction workers in the private sector and those in local authorities.

It said that the Government had cut pay to State employees and so a cut in private construction workers’ pay could be justified.

It recommended a drop of 7.5 per cent in basic pay, but said it should be regarded as a temporary measure and should be reviewed in January 2012 and each year thereafter.

Speaking afterwards, Fergus Whelan of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu), who led the eight-union delegation at the Labour Court, said he was very disappointed.

Building workers had already seen their earnings reduced by 40 – 50 per cent as a result of cuts in bonuses, piece rates and overtime, he said.

He said it was hard to see workers voting to accept a cut of such magnitude.

Mr Whelan believed the federation had “set a trap” for them. If workers rejected the wage cut, it would give the federation an excuse to walk away from the registered employment agreement. It put them in a very difficult situation, Mr Whelan said.

The construction industry committee is to meet next week at Ictu and discuss their position. Each of the eight unions will then ballot their members.

Tom Parlon, director general of the federation, said employers would consider the Labour Court recommendation at a meeting of its full executive body in eight days’ time.

He welcomed the fact the court had appreciated that at least a 7.5 per cent cut was needed, but said rates were still 60 per cent over the rate paid in Northern Ireland.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio, he also complained there was a lack of flexibility in the registered employment agreement.