CRANE drivers have dismissed claims that they are spending too much time gossiping on the phone and scoffing in the cab.
The attack was made by crane hire boss Geoffrey Marsh at a meeting of the Construction Plant-hire Association last week.
He said many drivers were overweight from snacking and sitting in their cabs all day. And he said the use of iPods and mobile phones should be banned for safety reasons.
But John Batey of crane drivers group the United Crane Operators Association said Mr Marsh was not living in the real world.
He added: 'Mobiles are essential, since if we have a breakdown we are not going to climb down to go and look for a phone to call our company.
'And, as for snacking, customers often don't want us to come down for our lunch breaks, since it takes too long.'
Mr Batey, a tower crane driver for 38 years, said contractors too often put unrealistic demands on drivers.
He said: 'It is not only eating that we have to do up there. On one job I was told I had to stay in the cab from 7 am to 6 pm.'