- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has come out against a proposal that would require city construction workers to complete an apprenticeship program, according to The Real Deal.
- He said the union-backed requirement would not lend itself to nonunion construction sites and instead suggested that the city adopt a program of increased inspections, higher penalties and stiffer regulations.
- Trade union representatives have put pressure on the New York City Council to address the increase in construction-site deaths — 30 in the last two years — with more stringent safety rules for workers and employers.
The requirement that construction companies be limited to hiring workers who have completed an apprenticeship program is part of a wider set of rules the council is expected to propose next week. De Blasio said that while he is in favor of union labor and apprenticeships, the requirement might not be practical for nonunion projects. According to the New York Department of Labor, 47% of the city's construction training programs are union-affiliated.
Union leaders have long maintained that nonunion construction sites are not as safe as union jobs because of the difference in training levels and welcome the possible hiring requirement. Critics of the proposal argue that unions are backing the rule as a way to boost their membership, which has decreased in recent years as nonunion employers have gained traction.
One of the biggest opponents of the proposed legislation is the Real Estate Board of New York, which has suggested more onsite safety measures, training and inspection — a program similar to De Blasio's recommendation. REBNY, which primarily represents private developer interests, and trade unions are often at odds over city construction policy.
City officials have commented previously that the increase in construction site accidents and deaths are the result of the city's building boom, which has seen record construction levels. In November, the New York Building Congress reported that 2015 public and private institutional starts alone came in at a total of $4.6 billion — a surge of 22% from 2014 and the highest level of activity since 2009.
Nevertheless, the Department of Buildings, which only logs construction injuries and deaths if they involve a building code violation, has implemented additional measures in the wake of increased safety-related incidents. In the first half 2016, the agency issued 4,580 stop-work orders, a year-over-year increase of 23%. In addition, de Blasio implemented a series of new crane regulations after a crane collapse last year and killed a pedestrian.