The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Monday, November 21, 2011


By The Building Tradesman

Lockout continues for some at Local 704

Five fire protection contractors formerly signatory to Sprinkler Fitters Local 704 are employing scabs to do the work of about 25 locked-out Local 704 members.

That’s the word from Local 704 Business Manager Greg Herman, who said the lockout for those 25 workers began Sept. 15. A total of seven contractors are participating in the lockout. The rest of the local’s signatory contractors are keeping some 200 Local 704 members employed under the terms of the old National Fire Sprinkler Association-negotiated contract, which expired Aug. 1

“We’ve obviously very disappointed that those contractors have chosen to take this route,” Herman said. “They have all been long-standing signatory contractors to Local 704, and our members have provided good work to them and helped them to be successful companies over the years.”

The seven companies taking part in the lockout include Absolute Fire Protection, Ann Arbor Fire Protection, Flow Fire Protection, Professional Sprinkler, Three Towers Fire Protection, Tri-Star Fire Protection and Wolverine Fire Protection.

Herman said the companies imposing the lockout are sticking to a demand that a new contract contain a two-tier wage level with a $21 per hour cut.  “That’s unacceptable,” he said.

The only way Local 704 members would be employed by those contractors, he said, would be if they were working under a National Maintenance Agreement project or another type of project labor agreement – but those jobs currently don’t exist.

“We have had support from the other trades who have honored our picket lines, and we do appreciate that,” Herman said. “And going forward, other trades should know that if they see those contractors on their job sites, then they’re working alongside scabs.”

Fading stimulus slows construction

Construction spending inched up by 0.2 percent between August and September but was down 1.3 percent compared to September 2010, the Associated General Contractors of America reported Nov. 1 in an analysis of new Census Bureau data. Association officials noted that growing declines in public sector activity continue to offset modest increases in private sector demand for construction.

“In less than a year’s time, the public sector has gone from propping up the construction industry to holding,” said the association’s chief economist, Ken Simonson. “Even as local and state budgets continue to contract, the federal government is winding the stimulus and base realignment programs down and cutting billions from key water and facility investment programs.”

Simonson noted that the total, seasonally adjusted annual construction spending rate in September 2011 was $787.2 billion, compared to  $797.3 billion in September 2010. Private sector construction spending increased was up 3.9 percent compared to last year. Meanwhile, public construction was down by 9.2 percent from September 2010 to September 2011.