Builders threaten to hire non-union workers

June 03, 2011 10:33AM

New York’s building contractors have voted to end a more than century-old pact to use only union labor on construction sites as a June 30 deadline nears for building trades contract negotiations in the city.

According to Crain’s, Louis Coletti, president of the Building Trades Employers’ Association, said yesterday that his board of governors voted to end the New York Plan for the Resolution of Jurisdictional Disputes, which is set to expire Dec. 31 but has always been extended in the past. The long-time agreement, with the Building and Construction Trades Council, requires contractors to hire only union workers and helps to resolve disputes between unions so that work is never interrupted during projects.

“It’s the first step to formally breaking the business model that has existed since 1903,” Coletti said. “We’re doing it because we have to position ourselves to survive if we can’t get our partners to make the changes to help us and to help them.”

A representative for Gary LaBarbera, president of the BCTC, called the building contractors’ move a “negotiating ploy,” and noted that they are actually still obligated to abide by the New York Plan, because it’s part of collective bargaining agreements.

Building contractors have been pushing for concessions from unions in the wake of the recession, and negotiations have gotten heated.

“We’ve been hearing for a long time that the two sides are quite angry at each other, but this is potentially the most serious standoff that we’ve heard about,” said Hope Cohen of the Regional Plan Association. “Maybe there is going to be a strike.” [Crain’s]