The vote on a divisive New York City safety law has been postponed to allow more time for stakeholders to come to an agreement on its key elements, according to The Real Deal New York.
Major sticking points have been the proposed requirement for 59 hours of worker training and the creation of a mandatory apprenticeship program. Critics say many workers are unable to afford that much time for training and that it could leave job sites empty, stalling construction activity. Proponents say that is unlikely.
The bill would also see the formation of a safety task force. The 14-member group would be responsible for fleshing out certain portions of the law, such as whether employers would be incentivized to cover training costs and how much previous training would count toward the 59-hour requirement.
The safety bill comes in response to an increase in worker deaths and injuries resulting from a construction boom in the city. Since that idea was put on the table, one of the main issues has been determining whether union employees are more protected than their nonunion counterparts. City Councilman Jumaane Williams, chair of the city's Committee on Housing and Buildings, last year called on the city's Department of Buildings to start classifying construction safety incidents based on whether the workers had a union affiliation or not.
The increase in construction incidents has spurred New York City lawmakers to push for more legal safeguards and ramifications for unsafe practices. The city's buildings department ramped up its enforcement efforts in the first half of 2016, issuing 4,580 stop-work orders, a 23% increase from the same period the year before. In 2015, the Manhattan district attorney's office formed a construction fraud task force to target illegal practices, including safety violations, among the construction companies operating in the city.
The safety of immigrant workers has also been on the radar of safety advocates across the country. Some industry groups report that workers who might not have legal status in the U.S. are hesitant to report safety hazards and are more likely to work under dangerous conditions.
Exploitation is another issue disproportionately facing immigrant workers. A report earlier this year from the nonprofit Polaris found that workers from Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala were particularly at risk of slave-like working conditions as well as human trafficking. On a global scale, a LexisNexis report identified the construction industry as one of the fields most susceptible to modern-day slavery due to its high demand for low-wage, manual labor.