From Socialist Voice, October 2010

Largest craft union rejects cut in pay


The Technical, Engineering and Electrical Union has rejected the Labour Court recommendation of a 7½ per cent cut in pay rates in the construction industry. At the end of September the National Executive Council unanimously rejected the proposal.
     The 45,000-strong TEEU is the second-largest union in the industry. Announcing the decision, the general secretary, Eamon Devoy, said: “Our members would not thank us for accepting this pay cut. We do not believe that it would contribute anything to economic recovery—quite the reverse. It would continue to depress domestic demand, which is now exerting a serious negative impact on the demand side.
     “Competitive issues do not arise to any great extent, as all construction companies operating here must comply with the existing registered employment agreement. The employers certainly have a case when they argue that there is widespread non-compliance with the agreement, but the answer to this is to ensure there is adequate enforcement.
     “One particular problem appears to be that some large contractors on public procurement projects sign up to all the relevant conditions but effectively renege on those commitments by farming out the work to subcontractors.
     These subcontractors, many of them based in the North, often do not comply with the REA, or much else for that matter, when it comes to important issues such as health and safety.
     “It is incomprehensible that the Government and various public bodies can award contracts and show no interest in the fact that not only are workers’ pay and conditions being undermined but, because so many subcontractors who are non-compliant come from outside the state, we are losing the profits and revenue these contracts generate as well.
     “The Registered Employment Agreement must be enforced, otherwise it goes by default, like so many other laws in a state where the Government seems to have lost the will to govern. Tackling non-compliance by trying to drive down wages makes it counterproductive in every sense.
     The Government is equally answerable for the high level of non-compliance by employees across industry, because of their failure to implement the long-awaited Employment Rights Compliance Bill agreed between the social partners and Government over two years ago.”

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