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No margin for pay rises, employers tell unions

Employers have refused a pay rise for construction workers because they say industry faces more cutbacks, redundancies and liquidations – and companies are trading at negative margins “just to try and stay afloat”.

Unions have criticised employers after the initial meeting of the 2012 Construction Industry Joint Council pay talks last Wednesday.

The meeting of the CIJC - the largest construction industry agreement covering the pay and terms of conditions of up to 500,000 workers – sees unions including Ucatt round the table with employers’ associations, including the UK Contractors Group, the Home Builders Federation and the National Access Scaffolding Confederation.

The unions also demanded holiday pay and increased travel expenses. But the employers’ response - seen by Construction News - paints a desperate picture.

It says: “Some companies are tendering at negative margins just to try to stay afloat and employers are of the view that the emphasis should be on sustainable employment outcomes, including the preservation of jobs.”

It adds: “Having regard to the dire outlook, employers cannot make any offer of an increase in pay rates in these most difficult of times.”

However, Steve Murphy, General Secretary of construction union UCATT, said: “Unions and construction workers have been treated with complete contempt as the employers’ side have offered absolutely nothing on any of the proposals the joint unions put forward in their pay claim.”

Unite and the GMB said employers are seeking to maintain their profits at the expense of hard working construction workers, who have suffered low pay for too long.

Gerry Lean, employers’ secretary to the CIJC, said they have worked with the unions to introduce pension arrangements that are “superior” to the government’s auto-enrolment requirements and also improve accident and life cover provisions provided under the CIJC agreement.

He said:  “Employers totally refute the allegation that the response to the latest pay and conditions claim is in any way contemptuous.  Indeed employers are most concerned about securing job security in these most difficult times.”

Mr Lean said member associations of the CIJC have lost about 8 per cent of their members over the last year due to insolvencies and that “any increase in pay rates at this time would only exacerbate this situation leading to more building workers facing the dole”.

Pay negotiations will reconvene on Monday 11 June.


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