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NYCA calls for public hearing on construction safety bill

The New York Construction Alliance (NYCA) is calling on the City Council to hold a public hearing on the new version of the construction safety bill, Intro. 1447.

According to the NYCA, the new draft of the bill, which has been criticized by advocates for minority construction workers and MWBEs, is “significantly differentˮ from the original.

NYCA executive director Kenneth Thomas has now sent a letter to Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Council Member Jumaane Williams, chair of the Council’s Committee on Housing and Buildings calling for a public hearing that would allow all stakeholders to weigh in on the changes that have been made.

“Voting on the new iteration of Intro. 1447 without holding a public hearing would be a signal that the Council isn’t fully committed to procedural transparency, which could be perceived as being a detriment to the concerns and livelihoods of hardworking New Yorkers within the construction industry; workers that are employed by members of the New York Construction Alliance,ˮ says Thomas in the letter.

According to Thmas, where the original draft of the Bill included an apprenticeship mandate, the new draft features a mandate for a minimum of 59 training hours.

The new draft also introduces a “training fund,” but, said Thomas “provides no explanation of how the funds would be used or managed.ˮ

The NYCA boss also criticizes the proposal for new certification cards for workers, stating that the new draft bill provides no information on how this system would be implemented or designed to avoid the widespread forgery and fraud that currently exists in the black market around OSHA-10 safety cards.

Since the new draft of the legislation was released, several MWBE advocates have written op-eds opposing the bill because they believe it will put many MWBE contractors out of business.

Minority construction workers have held protests against the new bill. Contractors and nonprofit organizations committed to local hiring have said the bill would prevent them from securing jobs for local residents.

Thomas writes, “It is only fair to hold a public hearing on this new and drastically altered version of Intro. 1447, which would allow workers, MWBEs and other stakeholders to provide direct feedback to the City Council and ensure that all New Yorkers have an opportunity to understand this legislation.

“There is absolutely no reason to deny the public this opportunity – especially since the Council prides itself on transparency, community engagement and a willingness to hear from everyday New Yorkers about real problems.ˮ

Last month, the Real Estate Board of New York released its own construction safety proposal for the City Council.

“REBNY’s commitment to this issue means that we will not simply continue to strongly oppose the current Intro. 1447 in its present form; we are also offering our own construction safety proposal for the Council’s consideration. Our proposal is based on industry best practices from the most sophisticated construction firms in the world and would more effectively increase construction safety, while also ensuring a fair and level playing field for all workers and contractors, regardless of their background or affiliation,” REBNY President John Banks said.

The City Council bill, which has sponsors such as Brooklyn council members Jumaane Williams and Carlos Menchaca, aims to require construction workers to take part in apprenticeship programs. It would also require workers on construction sites of at least four stories to undergo a ten-hour safety training program under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. OSHA training is currently only required for workers in buildings at least ten stories. Williams did not immediately return a request for comment.

“The bill, in its current form, was crafted largely based on political rhetoric rather an analysis of data about where accidents were occurring and why. These new onerous and unnecessary requirements will result in the exclusion of non-union workers from employment opportunities. Non-union workers represent the majority of the construction workforce, with over half of the population being immigrants and people of color, according to census data. Further, this bill will prevent many contractors and community-based organizations from maintaining local hiring initiatives on new construction projects,” Banks said.

According to Banks, the REBNY proposal would increase minimum training requirements for first aid, confined space awareness, fall protection and support scaffold skills. It would also lead to the formation of a task force, composed of experts from CUNY and SUNY, for evaluating additional training for high-skilled trades. The task force would also include members from minority and women-owned businesses. The additional requirements would be phased in over a five-year period.
The plan would focus on “gravity-related accidents,” which account for 90 percent of construction fatalities. It also aims to mandate drug and alcohol testing for all construction workers.

The City Council bill was created as a response to the rising number of construction fatalities in the city. According to the Department of Buildings, there were 12 deaths and 598 injuries in New York City worksites in 2016.

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