The Real Deal New York

Contracts renewed, but more changes loom for construction unions

September 19, 2011 10:25AM

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Though two dozen construction unions’ contracts were renewed this summer with revised terms, according to Crain’s the biggest changes are yet to come.

Operating engineers, painters and steamfitters, among other unions, agreed to unprecedented concessions amidst the faltering economy, helping to ensure that owners will continue to call upon them for construction work.

But Real Estate Board of New York members and others are upset that wages for carpenters and concrete workers, whose expiring contracts prompted fears of a World Trade Center walkout, were cut 20 percent only for residential and hotel projects of up to 16 and 20 stories, respectively. That agreement will make smaller developers more likely to choose unions than nonunions, as they frequently do for their projects. But it doesn’t help the city’s major developers.

“Some of the negotiations achieved substantial progress, and others achieved very little,” said REBNY President Steven Spinola. “We can’t continue to let these issues be in somebody else’s hands. It’s clear the current system doesn’t work.”

While REBNY wants more union concessions, unions argue that they’ve worked with owners to generate savings, and now it’s the contractors turn to take a cut. Owners who forego contractors save money, according to the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York.

Crain’s said each side — REBNY, contractors and unions — are meeting internally to figure out the next steps as things continue to shake out over the next few months. [Crain's]

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