CONSTRUCTION bosses will withdraw from collective agreements on wages unless trade unions sign up to a 7.5pc pay cut by December.
Construction Industry Federation (CIF) chief Tom Parlon confirmed the stance in a wide-ranging interview, where he also admitted the CIF's finances had been "destroyed" by the recession.
The industry has been battling to bring down labour costs since October, when the CIF pushed for a 20pc cut in the hourly minimum wage. The Labour Court recommended a 7.5pc cut in July.
"The unions are still looking at that so now we've given them a deadline of December 1," Mr Parlon told the Irish Independent. "Patience is running out amongst members.
"If we haven't gotten agreement by then we'll ask the Labour Court to put it in place.
"If that doesn't happen, then we will withdraw entirely from the Register of Employment [which governs construction wages]."
The deadline is understood to have been communicated to trade union officials in writing on Thursday last week. Fergus Whelan, an official with Ictu, last night stressed that talks were ongoing.
"There are some very complex issues involved and unions have their own processes to go through," he said, adding that some unions will have to ballot their members on the deal.
Despite the complexities, Mr Whelan described the December 1 deadline as "reasonable". "In fairness, we have been looking at this for nearly a year so we hope all the unions will be able to meet it," he added.
The executive of electricians union, the TEEU, unanimously rejected the deal back in September, saying it did "not believe it would contribute anything to economic recovery".
The CIF says the collapse in the industry means pay levels have to come down, and Mr Parlon warned of another review "in about a year".
The CIF has already shed about a quarter of its members, with Mr Parlon blaming the "bulk" of the fall on companies going out of business.
The impact on CIF's finances has been more severe, since its income is calculated on members' turnovers, which have collectively fallen from €37bn to less than €8bn.
"We've been destroyed," Mr Parlon said, adding that a "big share" of the staff had been lost while his own salary has been "almost halved" in three years.
While describing himself as optimistic generally, Mr Parlon said he suspects "next year is going to be the most challenging year of all" for the CIF.
"Asking people to spend between €1,000 and €20,000 on their representative industry is a big thing," he added.
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