Latest: Unite's 'unrealistic and unsustainable' claim threatens recovery in construction sector, says CIF

Update 6.20pm: The Construction Industry Federation has called on Unite to engage with the industry through the normal industrial relations procedures.

"Their current action is aimed at securing an 80% increase in pay for crane drivers in membership of their union. This claim is unrealistic and unsustainable. It would significantly increase construction costs and put construction jobs across the industry at risk," CIF said in a statement.

"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 CIF 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.

"Further to this, all of the construction unions, including Unite, served a pay claim on the industry and this claim is being dealt with through the Labour Court in the form of a Sectoral Employment Order (SEO) for the construction industry. This SEO will set legally binding rates of pay for all workers in the industry, including crane drivers. All stakeholders support the concept of an SEO as it will bring certainty to labour costs in the industry allowing for better planning and investment. The outcome of the Labour Court hearing into the SEO is due shortly.

"The best way to resolve this dispute is through dialogue. CIF urges Unite to engage in the normal dispute procedures in this case."

Earlier: Trade union Unite has served notice of industrial action on the Construction Industry Federation.

The move follows a near unanimous vote by members to extend their industrial action, which to date has only involved crane operators employed by agencies or firms outside the CIF.

Unite represents 90% of crane operators in the country.

Unite regional officer for construction Tom Fitzgerald said: "The fact that our members voted almost unanimously to extend their industrial action to relevant CIF sites is a reflection of their frustration at the CIF’s refusal to engage meaningfully with us in respect of crane operators’ legitimate demands.

"Our members are determined to pursue all avenues open to them in pursuit of pay rises which reflect their level of skill and responsibility.

"This action comes at a time when profits per employee in the construction have more than doubled since 2012, while construction wages remain below 2004 levels in real terms.

"It is in the interests of both CIF members and their workers to ensure that construction jobs are decent jobs paying decent wages."

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