Construction chiefs are to consider pulling the plug on a pay deal after failing to secure 20% wage cuts for building workers, it was revealed tonight.
The Labour Court called for a 7.5% salary reduction, sparking fears the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) will follow through with a threat to try to cancel an older deal on pay and conditions.
Tom Parlon, CIF director general, reiterated the warning, saying: “It was made clear to the Labour Court that if we did not get a realistic wage cut the CIF would consider withdrawing from the Registered Employers’ Agreement (REA).”
Under the Labour Court recommendation the average construction worker’s hourly rate of €17 will be cut by about €1.27.
A CIF spokesman said its executives will consider the recommended pay cut and all other options at a meeting on July 13.
The move for a pay cut was challenged by Congress, who claimed it was part of a wider plan to end the REA, which sets out rules on pensions and other conditions.
Fergus Whelan, industrial officer with Congress, said: “We believe that the CIF was never really serious about this pay cut.
“We believe what they were attempting to do is put a gun to the Labour Court, saying give us a pay cut or we will walk away from the REA.”
Mr Whelan insisted no worker would be happy voting for a pay cut but it would be considered by the eight trade unions involved in the construction sector.
“We have to be mindful that what’s really at stake here is not just the rate of pay, it’s the very existence of the Registered Employers’ Agreement and the hard fought things like pensions,” he said.
The CIF claimed more than 200,000 employees have lost their jobs and hundreds of companies have gone bust in the downturn.
Congress said its records show about 129,000 people are employed in the main manual building work.
The spokesman for the body said: “The concern is that the recommendation does not go nearly as far as the CIF had sought given the huge challenges facing all sectors of the construction industry and all options will be on the table for discussion and decision when our members meet.”
He added: “Unfortunately, the Labour Court Recommendation will be overshadowed at the Executive Body meeting by the ongoing decline in work opportunities in the industry and the widespread company failures amongst our members.”
The Labour Court said the CIF’s application followed the worst downturn in construction activity and employment levels that the industry has experienced in recent times.
It also noted that the basic rates in construction had increased this decade faster than increases in industry generally.