STRUGGLING construction workers face the prospect of a "savage" 20pc pay cut, according to their unions.
The Construction Industry Federation (CIF) has asked the Labour Court to slash legally-binding minimum wages rates -- and a hearing is due to take place later this month.
SIPTU has accused the construction bosses of a "savage" attack on workers by pushing ahead with its attempt to enforce the pay cut.
The union is fighting the demand as well as moves to cut overtime payments and travel allowances.
It claims the proposals will slash the wages of members, currently on rates of €18.60 an hour, by up to €180 a week.
This is the CIF's second attempt to cut pay in the last two years. Led by former PD government minister Tom Parlon, the 3,000-member employer group tried to change basic pay and allowance rates in an agreement for the construction sector last year.
Its last demand for a 10pc pay cut was rejected by the court, which recommended further talks with unions on the issue of meeting pay rises due under the last national wage agreement.
This time, the CIF will argue that its demand for a deeper pay cut at the upcoming hearing is justified as the economic climate has deteriorated further, with the workforce more than halved to 140,000.
It will also claim it cannot compete with contractors in the North who are undercutting members legally obliged to pay the set rates.
However, SIPTU said there would be no concession to the demands, "threats or no threats".
In a flier distributed to members, it claimed the CIF had threatened it would try to scrap the Registered Employment Agreement -- which sets rates of pay for the industry -- if the union did not agree to its demands.
It warned members that employers not only wanted to cut pay by 20pc but also sought to reduce overtime payments and travel allowances.
It also said they wanted to create a new entry grade for general operatives, at €11.61 an hour.
New recruits would remain on this rate for four years before they reached the current minimum rates for the grade.
The union estimates that the employers' demands would mean pay cuts of between €130 and €170 a week for general operative grades and more than €180 a week for craft workers.
The CIF confirmed that a hearing had been sought at the Labour Court, following discussions with unions over the last few months.
Meanwhile, SIPTU has called on the Government to employ redundant apprentices at state visitor and tourist attractions.
It said a €4m fund could be diverted from the FAS Employment Support Grant to employ 400 apprentices, from the 7,000 apprentices who are out of work.