Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Key construction contract ratified as deadline looms

Steamfitters approve a new deal, the first in the industry since painters reached an agreement in the spring. Several more construction union contracts are slated to expire June 30

A second union has completed a new contract in the closely-watched run-up to Thursday's expiration of nearly two-dozen labor agreements spanning the local construction industry.

Members of Enterprise Association of Steamfitters' Local 638 ratified a new three-year deal over the weekend, sources said. Details were not immediately available, and calls to the contractor associations and the union were not returned.

Early on, industry sources expected negotiations with the steamfitters to go down to the wire, as the union has driven a hard bargain in the past. But in recent weeks, progress was made in talks, and industry officials now consider the operating engineers to be the most likely candidate for an impasse. Those workers run the heavy machinery that keep construction sites humming. “It's important,” Louis Coletti, president of the Building Trades Employers' Association, said of the steamfitters' deal. “But what it's really going to come down to is, can an agreement be reached with the operating engineers?"

The steamfitters' pact follows one reached by the painters in the spring that provided for modest raises in exchange for concessions on work rules and benefits. Industry officials hailed that contract as a potential pattern-setter for others.

Deals covering carpenters, concrete workers, mason tenders and bricklayers still need to be reached. The carpenters, who are operating under a federal monitor, are likely to have their current deal extended as court proceedings play out.

By Daniel Massey / Crain's New York Business
June 28, 2011