'Shocked and angry'

Industrial discontent looming in construction as out of touch employers impose a pay freeze on workers

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Unite is warning that the prospect of industrial discontent on construction sites across the UK in the coming months has greatly increased, as a result of employers blocking a pay increase.

The problem involves the Construction Industry Joint Council (CIJC) agreement which affects the wages and conditions of over 500,000 construction workers, primarily those in civil engineering.

A pay increase was due in June but the employers’ side delayed making an offer and it was not until last week that they finally confirmed that they were imposing a pay freeze and refusing to make any improvements to the conditions workers receive through the agreement.

Unite national officer for construction Jerry Swain said, “This is a missed opportunity to reward construction workers in civil engineering for their hard work and commitment, the vast majority of whom have continued to work throughout the pandemic in very trying circumstances.

“It appears that the employers’ side care very little for those who work in the industry and do not understand how the agreement works. The CIJC sets minimum pay rates and its refusal to increase these minimum rates will cause real hardship to some very low paid workers in construction.

“Construction workers ranging from the very highly skilled to those on poverty pay, right across the country will be left shocked and angry today to learn that their employers will be rewarding their hard work and dedication with a real terms pay cut,” he added.

“As we face the second wave of the pandemic and fresh lockdowns, construction workers will be all too aware that their employers are forcing them to go to work for less.

“Unite will now be consulting with local construction officers throughout the UK to identify the sites where workers wish to take local action to secure a pay increase that they thoroughly deserve,” Swain continued.

“This pay freeze calls into question the credibility of the CIJC agreement and its negotiating committee. This wage freeze was imposed by the representatives of small trade associations, with the ones wanting to pay the least calling the tune.

“They appear to have no grasp of reality or understanding that the majority of workers affected are operating on large sites where they have made this agreement largely irrelevant.

“The credibility of the agreement is now at an all-time low with many clients simply ignoring it as some of the rates are simply too low,” Swain went on to say.

“If the agreement is to become relevant and fit for purpose then there needs to be radical reform on the employers’ side so that those who negotiate the agreement better understand the reality of working on a construction site and where the agreement needs to be in order to gain some credibility on those sites

“The rates in the CIJC are already far below those on other construction agreements and this pay freeze is set to make that unfair situation even worse.”

By Barckley Sumner

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