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Tower cranes at building sites across the country will be idle on Thursday... here's why

SIPTU is not happy with Unite over the pay claim, calling it ‘disingenuous’.


THE UNITE UNION has announced that tower cranes at building sites around the country will be sitting idle on Thursday as operators engage in strike action in pursuit of higher pay.

The union said in a statement that Thursday will be the first in a “series of strike days”. A General Members’ Meeting will be held on Friday to decide on further actions over the coming weeks.

It said:

The move follows a failure by employers to engage meaningfully with the union and a ballot of Unite members in the sector which resulted in an overwhelming mandate for industrial action.

The union is calling for crane drivers’ pay to be lifted to between €25 and €27 an hour. This is a move which fellow union SIPTU has slammed as “disingenuous”.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, SIPTU divisional organiser Greg Ennis claims it would represent a pay increase of 50%, despite Unite reporting that it would be a 10% jump.

Unite says it has added 10% to the highest rate that crane drivers currently earn (which is €22 to €23 an hour) to come up with the demand.

Speaking to Fora.ie in April, regional officer for construction Tom Fitzgerald explained:

“At the moment there is an industry agreement that crane drivers are paid a minimum of €16.69 an hour,” he said, adding that some get as much as €22 or €23 an hour depending on the circumstances.

We believe that crane drivers should be earning between €25 and €27 an hour.

“We took the highest rate in terms of what crane drivers (currently) earn and added 10% to it.

“The reason why it is 10% is because then they would match the highest rates in the construction sector, which are for workers in mechanical grades, like plumbers and welders.”

The disagreement between Siptu and Unite comes after the construction unions attended the Labour Court to discuss the Construction Industry Federation’s (CIF) application for a Sectoral Employment Order (SEO) to set a floor in wages for the construction sector.

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The unions have sought pay rises of 10% for construction workers as part of the SEO. This would mean that the highest paid construction workers – craftsmen – would be paid €18.96 an hour.

The four grades of “construction operatives” would be paid a percentage of that amount.

Tower crane operators, who are Grade A construction operatives, would be paid 97% of the craftsmen rate.

SIPTU has questioned why Unite was part of that of that submission to the SEO while also pursuing a separate, and significantly larger claim, for a small section of construction workers.

It’s disingenuous on one hand to be in a Labour Court hearing but at the same time to go and seek a higher rate for a small section of workers.

“SIPTU has sought a review for all 14,000 members working in the construction industry including tower crane operators,” Ennis said.

A spokeswoman for Unite said that had no comment to make about SIPTU’s remarks today.

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Ceimin Burke

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