Crane operators to stage industrial action over pay

Construction Industry Federation says Unite seeking ‘unrealistic’ pay rises of 80%

Crane operators are set to stage industrial action from next week in a dispute over pay that could significantly affect building projects .

On Thursday the trade union Unite said it had served notice of industrial action on the Construction Industry Federation.

Two previous one-day strikes as part of the same pay dispute involved crane operators employed by agencies and firms outside the federation.

The notice of industrial action served on the federation expires next week, and sources suggested a series of sporadic actions could take place afterwards.

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Unite's regional officer for construction, Tom Fitzgerald, said the fact that its members had voted almost unanimously to extend their industrial action to relevant federation sites was a reflection of their "frustration" at employers' refusal to "engage meaningfully with us in respect of crane operators' legitimate demands".

“This action comes at a time when profits per employee in construction have more than doubled since 2012, while construction wages remain below 2004 levels in real terms,” he said. “It is in the interests of both Construction Industry Federation members and their workers to ensure that construction jobs are decent jobs paying decent wages.”

The increases sought

The Unite pay claim is for a pay increase for crane operators to €24 per hour from July 1st, €27 per hour from January 1st, 2018, and €30 per hour from January 2019.

The federation said on Thursday that Unite was seeking increases of 80 per cent in pay for crane operators and that this was was “ unrealistic and unsustainable”.

“It would significantly increase construction costs and put construction jobs across the industry at risk,” it said.

The federation said it strongly requested that Unite “engage with industry through the normal industrial-relations procedures”.

“A strike in the industry without utilising the normal industrial-relations procedures is irresponsible and damaging, particularly at a time when there is a deficit of housing and other essential infrastructural projects.

“The Construction Industry Federation had sought to deal with this claim through the agreed processes and protocols in accordance with custom and practice in the industry. However, Unite served strike notice on the industry, thereby bypassing the normal agreed dispute resolution procedures.”

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent