Tuesday, August 02, 2011

NYC Concrete Union Workers Walk Out Hampers Ground Zero Jobs

Ground Zero is alive with all kinds of construction trades and work proceeds on the signature Freedom Tower (1WTC), 4WTC, and the WTC memorial, museum, and PATH transit hub.

A work stoppage would put a crimp into the construction schedules throughout the site. Yet, that's exactly what may happen since concrete workers have been without a contract deal since July 1.
The Concrete Workers District Council, whose members have been without a contract since July 1, declined to comment. But some of the workers who stood or sat in a large group around a plaza agreed to discuss their concerns.

"We were willing to take a freeze but we are not going to take a 20 percent pay cut," said concrete worker Lorenzo Mineo. He said he realized people around the country have a connection to the building formerly known as the Freedom Tower and they would want the work to go on. But "we're here in the elements risking our lives and building this building and they don't want to pay their workers."

The workers say they are the lowest paid of the trades. They make $37.80 an hour and while a job like this involves some overtime, many don't.
The Port Authority and the September 11th Memorial organizers say that the memorial will still be able to open to the public on schedule, but the work stoppage is going to affect the construction schedules throughout the site, particularly the towers and the transit hub. Work can't proceed on pouring the core for the Freedom Tower, which means that the steel can't rise much beyond its current height more than 800 feet above street level. The same goes for the construction at 4WTC.

Delays will not only throw off the expected completion dates, but will unnecessarily add to the costs of completing the various projects. The work stoppage threatens to stop construction jobs throughout the City, affecting up to 10,000 construction workers.

Talks are scheduled for this afternoon to try and resolve the contract situation.
Talks between Laborers' Locals 6a, 18a and 20 of the Cement and Concrete Workers of New York and the Cement League, an industry association, have been extended several times past deadlines. There's been progress on most issues, but management's demand for a 20% wage reduction on residential and hotel projects has been a sticking point, an industry source said.

Workers were not striking at the World Trade Center Memorial, which is scheduled to be completed in time for the upcoming tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. But they did walk off their jobs at the new Weill Cornell Medical Center research building on East 69th Street, the industry source said, even though that project is covered by a labor agreement that includes a no-strike clause. An arbitration hearing on that walkout could come as soon as Wednesday.

“We don't believe they have any standing to strike PLA sites,” said Louis Coletti, referring to the agreements the industry reached with unions to help jumpstart construction in the face of the downturn. “There's a very specific no-strike provision in them.”

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