CONNstruction - Fall 2011 - (Page 11)

newsandviews The pros and cons of employing Project Labor Agreements for public construction projects is a politically charged subject with unions and open shop groups pointing to studies that support their respective arguments. that PLAs reduce the risk of construction delays (and increased costs) from worker shortages or labor disputes through no-strike provisions and centralized referral systems. Proponents also maintain that PLAs foster cooperation between the construction workforce and management. It is difficult to evaluate these competing views. Studies have been done but were usually performed at the request of, or with funding from, interests on either side of the debate. Public PLAs – Good or Bad? By Jack Leahy CCIA Director of Labor Relations The pros and cons of employing Project Labor Agreements for public construction projects is a politically charged subject with unions and open shop groups pointing to studies that support their respective arguments. The debate has become shriller given the budget pressures states and municipalities are faced with and as construction unions contend with near depression levels of unemployment. In the political sphere, some Republican state legislatures are curtailing the use of PLAs, while at the federal level, Republican or Democratic presidents use Executive Orders to promote or restrict the use of PLAs. Private sector experience Against the backdrop, one might ask if PLAs drive up costs, why is there widespread use of project labor agreements in the private sector, where profit is the objective? A study conducted by the California Research bureau (a research arm of the state legislature) studying 82 PLAs between 1984 and 2001 found that nearly 72 percent were in the private sector. Bechtel, a major nationwide construction contractor, was among those surveyed for the study. It reported it had done 100 PLA projects over the past 25 years with 85 percent in the private sector. Bechtel’s labor relations vice president was quoted as saying he has “never seen anything to indicate that a PLA was the cause of increased costs or delays. Projects are delayed due to changes in the scope of work, increased number of change orders, engineering or design changes. Such changes cause an increase in labor costs, not the other way around.” It seems clear that owner preference is another driving force in determining whether to use a PLA. Private project owners request that contractors use PLAs for economic reasons, labor stability and cost and scheduling considerations. Owners typically want PLAs in order to meet their speedto-market demands and to ensure against delays that can be caused by worker shortages, work stoppages, or collective bargaining negotiations. What is a PLA? A PLA is a contractually binding agreement negotiated between a construction project owner, developer, and the Building and Trades labor unions. It is a form of pre-hire agreement, negotiated before any employees are hired, and becomes part of bid specifications that all winning contractors must follow. Typically PLAs guarantee uniform wages, work rules and benefits across the multiple crafts employed on a project. (The wage guarantee may be superfluous, since many states have prevailing wage laws.) Arguments for and against Most are familiar with the arguments for and against PLAs. The main arguments made by opponents to using PLAs in public sector construction are that PLAs increase construction costs to taxpayers, are anti-competitive by excluding or discouraging non-union contractors from bidding on public projects, and are an organizing tool to coerce construction workers into union membership. The main argument made by advocates to use project labor agreements in public sector construction is Conclusion Despite the controversy over the merits of using PLAs on public projects, the widespread use of PLAs on private sector projects, where owners are out to make money, suggests that PLAs are a useful engineering management for large, complex, or time-critical public projects. CONNstruction / Fall 2011 / 11

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of CONNstruction - Fall 2011

Riding on Private Investments
Clean Water Fund Helps Create Infrastructure Jobs and Grow the State’s Economy
Public PLAs – Good or Bad?
Bioscience Connecticut Initiative: A Timely Investment
Shovel ready
Aiding economic growth
Wearing two hats
Jammed roadways and full trains
Major transportation initiatives in Connecticut
The Young Contractors Forum Summer Meeting
Associated General Contractors of Connecticut Annual Golf Outing
Connecticut Environmental and Utilities Contractors Association Spring Luncheon Meeting
The Connecticut Road Builders Association Spring Dinner Meeting
Connecticut Ready Mixed Concrete Association Annual Meeting
CTASLA/CCPC Pervious Concrete Workshop
Index to Advertisers/

CONNstruction - Fall 2011