Construction firms have expressed support for a new pay agreement for mechanical craftworkers and apprentices but have voiced strong opposition to introducing travel allowances as part of any new deal.
The Mechanical Engineering and Building Services Contractors Association (MEBSCA), which is affiliated to the Construction Industry Federation, has notified the Labour Court that it backs calls by two trade unions for a new Sectoral Employment Order — or SEO — to set minimum rates for pay, sick pay and pensions for plumbers, pipefitters and welders.
However, MEBSCA, which represents 50 building contracting firms employing around 3,230 workers, said any attempt to introduce a travel allowance could prove unsustainable for many employers.
The request for a new SEO for mechanical craftworkers was made earlier this summer by Connect and Unite, with both unions asking the Labour Court to make recommendations on travel allowances.
However, MEBSCA said claims by the unions for an additional one hour’s travel allowance earlier this year would represent a 12.8% pay increase if conceded.
MEBSCA said it had already agreed a 2.7% pay rise in September with a further increase of 2.7% in September 2020. “To recommend a further increase in labour costs in the form of travel would put mechanical companies significantly out of line with others in the industry,” it said.
MEBSCA said the introduction of an SEO in March 2018 had provided certainty on labour costs when tendering for projects as well as providing mechanical workers with a fair rate of pay.
The association said it had been a normal and desirable practice to have terms and conditions set for pay in the sector which had been covered by a Registered Employment Agreement until they were discontinued following a Supreme Court ruling in 2013.
MEBSCA said the gap between the striking down of REAs in 2013 and the first SEO in 2018 had allowed overseas contractors operating from a lower cost base to enjoy a competitive advantage over Irish mechanical contractors.