Construction employers exposed over poverty pay rates

Construction employers who negotiate the pay and conditions of hundreds and thousands of workers, who operate via the Construction Industry Joint Council (CIJC), have been exposed for cynically driving down workers’ pay.

Low rates

Rates have become so low that the employers’ side is being forced to increase the lowest rate (for general operatives) outside of normal pay negotiations.

The general operative rate currently stands at £10.26 an hour. However, the rate will become illegal on 1 April 2023, when the national minimum wage rises to £10.40 an hour. The CIJC is increasing the general operative rate to £10.40 to ensure it remains in line with the national minimum wage.

CIJC humiliated

Unite 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.”

Wages eroded

The fact the CIJC was on the verge of having an illegal pay rate highlights the long-term erosion of workers’ pay under the agreement. Prior to the 2008 economic downturn, all the CIJC pay rates were above the real living wage. Now the two lowest pay rates are below this figure.

The employers’ side of the CIJC is made up of individuals chosen by various construction trade federations including Build UK, which represent major contractors, the Home Builders Federation, Painting and Decorating Association, Scottish Building Federation, National Federation of Roofing Contractors, National Access & Scaffolding Confederation and the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA).

Corrupted agreement

Mr 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."

This is the latest controversy afflicting the CIJC in less than 12 months, following the employers’ decision last year not to honour the additional bank holiday to mark the Queen’s funeral. Following that controversy, the CIJC has agreed to honour this year’s extra bank holiday to mark the King’s coronation.

The anniversary date for the annual pay increase under the CIJC is at the end of June.