Friday, May 13, 2011

New York real estate board calls for national certification

Cranes Today

REBNY, the Real Estate Board of New York, has launched a campaign to change the city's approach to crane operator licensing, citing safety and cost concerns.

Crane operator and mechanic licensing in New York City is currently run, for most crane types, through a scheme run by the NYC Department of Buildings. The licensing programme hit the headlines last year after former acting chief inspector of cranes James Delayo admitted taking bribes to license operators who hadn't passed exams.

The lifting trade in New York City is dominated by two union branches, IUOE Local 14, representing operators, and IUOE Local 15, representing mechanics, among others. Both union locals have been investigated for organised crime links. In 2003, federal indictments charged 42 people with racketeering, in connection with Colombo and Genovese organised crime family control of the two locals. In July 2008, IUOE Local 14 settled civil racketeering claims by agreeing to allow the courts to appoint an ethical practices attorney and hearing officer, and by agreeing to changes to its membership polices. Both Locals have since been reformed. However, the licensing scheme, and the control it gives them over New York's construction trade, remains a source of concern for many.

REBNY president Steven Spinola is frank about his group's interests when it comes to changing the scheme: "With high rise construction, the operators who control the cranes control all of the vertical movement of all materials and people, and therefore have the ability to halt work on a construction site. As a result, we've got two union locals, 14 and 15, who, even in the last three to four difficult years, have not signed any Project Labor Agreements to control costs and prevent construction projects from stalling. Their contracts protect a tremendous amount of non-productive work. A study we commissioned shows that over three years, this will result in nearly $100m of non-productive work on the World Trade Center site.

"There are triggers in the agreements with the unions for the number of mechanics and engineers needed on a job. Many of these triggers do not reflect the current needs of the job site. For example, each crane over 50 tons requires an oiler, whose only job nowadays is to start the machine and park it at the end of the day. Additionally, there is a requirement for a 3-piece maintenance engineer to be available to repair certain types of equipment, such as cranes. Since much of the construction equipment are leased, if something happens to the crane, the owner of the crane would bring in his or her own technician and will often not allow maintenance engineer employed by the general contractor to repair the crane. However, the labor contract requires the construction manager to employ a maintenance engineer directly whenever certain equipment is operating on site. .

"Some master mechanics, on salaries of $170,000, are costing as much as $700,000 a year after over time and other expenses."

The campaign by REBNY comes as the board goes into talks with the unions. Spinola says, "Negotiations for new contracts with Local 14 and 15 have begun this week. The unions are being asked to eliminate nonproductive work. We want a fair, honest, system that results in a level playing field for everyone.

"The proliferation of nonproductive work and disproportionate benefit provisions for these two trades has a damaging effect on other unions and construction site morale. It becomes difficult for others to continue to make concessions to reduce the rising costs of construction while others are getting compensated for doing nothing. New York City’s economy needs construction jobs to be part of the recovery and in order to get more projects going, every trade organization needs to consider reducing costs."

It's not though, Spinola argues, merely a question of cutting costs for developers. REBNY would like to see New York City adopt NCCCO or equivalent licensing. He explains, "After the two major accidents in New York in 2008, the City commissioned an independent High Risk Construction Oversight Study which recommended using national licensing. The Building Trades Department of the national AFL-CIO's investigation into the accidents also recommended a national license.

"For the national certification, you have to be tested on the particular type of crane you are going to work on. In NYC, the test requires the applicant to obtain the required training hours from an already licensed operator, who are largely union members, on an privately owned crane. We believe that, for safety, this should be changed.

"The national program requires re-certification every five years. The current New York license is for life."

One objection to adopting NCCCO certification in New York City is that the city's dense urban environment make it a fundamentally different place to work than less crowded parts of the US. Spinola doesn't share that concern: "We're talking about people who are working in Chicago, or Philadelphia, or Las Vegas, places that have similar density issues, coming to work in New York. We don't think anyone working in Kansas will come and claim they can work here."



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  3. Anyone who knows anything about I.U.O.E. Locals 14 and 15 knows that this creep Steven Spinola of the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) doesn't know what the hell he is talking about! The call by REBNY for "national licensing" has nothing to do with safety (Crane operators in NYC are already licensed by the New York City Department of Buildings), and everything to do with union busting.

    Those recent accidents in Manhattan, which resulted in the deaths of Wayne Bliedner and Donald Leo, two members of I.U.O.E. Local 14, were caused by faulty equipment/rigging, not by operator error. REBNY knows this, but instead of questioning the business practices of the owner of those cranes, they decided to use these accidents as subterfuge to push for the elimination the NYC DOB Hoist Machine Operator license, which will greatly weaken the crane operator's union by causing an influx of non-union crane operators from out of state. The scumbags at REBNY don't care about the extraordinary skill of union crane operators and Local 14's exemplary safety record. All they care about is the additional money they will make if they successfully bust the crane operator's union.

  4. Any real estate board or even homeowner association has the right to impose regulations as long as it promotes well-being of the homeowners concerned.

  5. As the certification is going to lead to safety and it will avoid accidents and mishaps in the workplace, then why would people be against it. They should go with it as it will keep both the workers (crane operators) and the civilians around the construction area for the real estate property safe.

    1. Hey "NY real estate ce": Crane operators in NYC are already licensed. A national certification designed to replace local licensing is a scheme by you greedy scumbags in the real estate industry to bust the Operating Engineers. REBNY doesn't give a shit about safety. All they want to do is bust the construction trade unions so they can make even more money!

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