Workers in the construction industry are in line for a pay rise so that employers can ensure they meet national minimum wage (NMW) laws.
The Construction Industry Joint Council (CIJC)’s minimum rates have dropped so low that bosses have needed to take action outside the standard pay negotiations to stay compliant.
Currently the general operative hourly rate is £10.26. However, that amount will become illegal when the NMW increases to £10.40 an hour from 1 April. The CIJC has therefore decide to boost the general operative rate to the NMW rate so that it meets legal requirements.
The move has been slammed by Unite union, which believes the CIJC has been “exposed for cynically driving down workers’ pay”.
National officer for construction Jerry Swain said: “The fact that the CIJC has had to increase wages to ensure their rates remain legal is deeply humiliating.
“It is a dark stain on the construction industry that employers now think so little of workers who undertake hard manual labour, often in dirty conditions in all weathers, that they are only prepared to pay them the minimum wage.”
“Employers have eroded wages so far that they now consider the value of a highly experienced site labourer to be less than the minimum wage. The employers didn’t increase the rate out of the goodness of their hearts but because they are no longer allowed to pay such low wages.”
According to Unite, the fact the CIJC was at risk of having an illegal pay rate exposes the “long-term erosion of workers’ pay under the agreement”. It believes all the Council’s pay rates prior to the 2008 economic downturn were above the real living wage, but now the two lowest are below this amount.
Swain added: “The emergency increase in the general operative rate, corrupts the entire agreement, as employers have failed to increase the other rates, reducing the differentials and devaluing skill rates.”