The walkout by members of the Cement & Concrete Workers of New York slowed down construction on parts of the complex’s transportation hub and the tower at 1 World Trade Center, according to Steve Coleman, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, owner of the site. The 9/11 Memorial isn’t affected and is scheduled to open on the 10th anniversary of the attacks, Coleman said.
“Nobody gains anything with a work stoppage,” Rich Anderson, president of the New York Building Congress, a trade organization that’s not involved in the contract negotiations, said in a telephone interview. “It’s potentially very disruptive in the short term, and in the long term, it doesn’t help the industry in any good way.”
The concrete workers, whose contracts expired in June, walked off the job site yesterday to protest a proposed wage reduction of as much as 20 percent, according to Sal Merlino, a member of the union’s local chapter 18a.
“We just want to work,” said Merlino, who was among dozens of laborers gathered in a park across from the site this morning. “We’d be insulted with a 5 percent cut. I didn’t think it’d come to this.”
Members of local chapters 6a, 18a and 20 joined the walkout, according to Merlino.
Phone messages left at the offices of local chapters 6a, 18a and 20 weren’t returned. Bryan Winter, president of the Cement League, which represents the site’s management, declined to comment on the walkout.
“It’s better to lose a couple days now, so that we can continue earning well in the future,” said Francisco Alvarado, a concrete worker with local chapter 18a.
Alvarado, an immigrant from El Salvador who has lived and worked in New York for 30 years, said the union is resisting wage cuts because of how expensive it is to live in the city.
Unionized cement and concrete workers earned $34.90 per hour in wages, $61.09 per hour when fringe benefits are included, according to the Cement League’s website.
Lou Coletti, chairman of the New York Building Trades Employers’ Association, said management and union negotiators would be meeting today and probably would continue talks through the week.
“None of those sites should be held hostage to contract negotiations,” Coletti, who isn’t involved in the discussions, said in a telephone interview yesterday. “They should be back at work and working.”
Merlino and Alvarado said they didn’t think an impasse in negotiations would result in a strike.
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