Construction worker deaths have been on the rise in New York City, and union representatives and non-union workers feel that it is about time the city did something to stop the carnage. There were 30 construction worker deaths between 2015 and 2016, and 24 of those deaths occurred with non-union companies. Union leaders have appealed to the city government to help stop the deaths with new safety laws regarding construction training.
A Lack Of Training Is Killing Workers
The New York State Department of Labor requires all union construction workers to have a certain amount of safety training every year. The costs for these training sessions are rolled into the worker’s wages and passed on to customers. But the investment in worker safety by unions has paid off for customers in the form of faster completion times, fewer work stoppages, and higher quality work.
Non-union companies do not have to offer their worker’s safety training, and many companies do not offer the training as a way of saving money. In most cases, the difference between a union and non-union project can be upwards of 20 percent in savings. This is an appealing way for project owners to save money. But non-union companies are notorious for not investing in the proper supervision, safety training, or safety equipment for their workers, and that is what union representatives in New York City want to stop.
A New Law Being Introduced
At the insistence of New York City union leaders, New York City House and Building Committee Chairperson Jumaane Williams, Council representative Carlos Menchaca, and Manhattan borough president Gale Brewer have all teamed up to introduce a citywide measure to ensure non-union companies offer safety training to all of their employees.
The measure is expected to bring the level of non-union training up to the same level that union employees currently get. If the measure passes, it would cause non-union costs for project owners to go up, which might be another reason why union officials are so insistent on non-union worker training.
A Matter of Cost Difference Between Union And Non-Union
Labor unions in New York City have been struggling to get private work for the last few decades. Any project funded by city, state or federal money must use prevailing wage workers, which makes unions attractive to job owners because of the strong record unions have at completing projects with little or no incident. However, unions are not getting the call for the big projects because of the 20 percent difference in costs with non-union companies, and that makes unions anxious to raise the rates of non-union shops as much as possible.
While it looks like a money issue for unions, there really is a level of sincerity to the call from unions to make non-union worker conditions safer. Union shops invest in training and the right safety equipment for their workers, and that results in fewer injuries and worker deaths on job sites. The job owners who think they are saving money by hiring non-union companies may start to see any savings they made, offset by the costs associated with lost time on the job, jobs being shut down due to safety violations, and potential fines for hiring a contractor with a known history of safety violations.
There Is Merit To The Unions Intentions
The prime motivation for unions may look like it is only to raise the rates of non-union companies, but there is merit to what unions are saying. The measure introduced to the New York City council would at least force non-union companies to invest in training for their workers that can reduce injuries and save lives.
The construction worker training initiative will be introduced to the city council soon, and the hope from union representatives is that it will pass. One thing that is helping the unions in their fight for safer working conditions is that many non-union workers are also speaking out against the cost-cutting measures of non-union shops.
The hope is that something is done before anyone else dies on a construction site. With the rapid increase in the amount of construction work going on in New York City, the city council may want to put the new construction worker training initiative on the fast track as far as consideration and possible approval goes.