May 10th: Extending a cautious welcome for Minister Pat Breen’s decision to approve new minimum pay rates for construction and electrical contracting workers recommended by the Labour Court, trade union Unite warned that what Regional Officer for Construction Tom Fitzgerald termed “modest wage gains” could be largely cancelled out by spiralling costs in areas such as housing and childcare.
“Today’s news that Minister Breen has accepted the recommended new pay rates is some good news for workers in the construction and electrical contracting sectors. However, if construction jobs are to be good jobs and the industry as a whole sustainable, the government will need to contain spiralling costs.
“Many construction workers cannot afford to either buy or rent the houses they build”, Tom Fitzgerald pointed out.
“Against the background of high costs in areas such as housing and childcare, the 2.7% increase in minimum pay rates set to take effect in the autumn only amounts to a modest gain.
“Unite also remains disappointed at the failure to address travel bands in the context of SEOs. Travel and subsistence pay are fundamental elements of construction workers’ overall remuneration. We will continue pressing for these to be included in future SEOs. It should also be noted that negotiations to improve pay and all relevant terms and conditions for Mechanical grades (plumbers, fitters and welders) are ongoing.
“Even the modest gains announced today would not have been achieved without workers organising collectively in strong unions. But there remains much more to be done to ensure that our industry is attractive to workers going forward. In particular, we need to ensure that all apprentice rates are above the National Minimum Wage”, Tom Fitzgerald concluded.