A new construction worker training bill has been passed in New York City, and it is already causing a lot of strife between union and non-union workers.
Nationwide, the U.S. boasts the second largest construction market in the world. In 2016, the U.S. construction market was worth an incredible $1,162 billion, and New York City is the most expensive construction market on the planet.
But recently, and especially in New York City, there has been a sharp increase in the number of fatalities on construction sites, so government officials are officially stepping in. Their solution comes in the form of legislation that dramatically changes the training standards for the majority of construction workers in New York City, but not everyone is pleased with the new safety protocol.
The bill, Intro 1447, would require a minimum 40-hour training course by December 2018 for the city’s 185,000 construction workers. First, the Department of Buildings must determine whether there are enough training facilities available for all 185,000 workers to meet that deadline. If not, the deadline will be extended to September 2020.
The training will be split into a couple different segments. The first course will be the equivalent of a 10-hour course sponsored by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Then, workers will have to complete a minimum of 30 more hours of training, and once finished the Department of Buildings will analyze if they need to complete 10 to 25 additional hours. A full eight hours of this course will be dedicated to the dangers of falling workers and objects at construction sites.
Workers who have recently undergone similar training will be exempt from this new standard.
The current law only requires 10 hours of training, and many non-union groups are unhappy with this unforeseen spike in hours of mandatory training.
While more safety training will benefit the construction workers, opponents of the bill say that it will only work well for union workers since the union will cover the hefty training expenses. This could leave non-union workers in the dust, leaving them to pay for training out-of-pocket, an expense that might even put them out of a job.
Opponents of the bill believe that the legislation favors only union workers; however, The Real Deal reports that a majority of construction worker deaths in New York occur on non-union job sites. More than 40 workers have died at construction sites in the city in the past two years.
In response to the bill’s opponents, Councilman Jumaane Williams, a sponsor of the bill, expressed that the city will dedicate $5 million to the initial training costs. He explained that this amount is substantial and it represents how seriously the city takes worker safety, union and nonunion alike.
“We can do more detail later,” he said. “To get started in a real way, we needed some real commitment. No one can tell me that $5 million is not a real commitment.”