Benefit Plans Should Help Construction Workers First
June 3, 1991
The legal settlement between the laborers' union and the Builders, Contractors and Employees Retirement Trust and Pension Plan and its sponsors should send a message to the construction industry (see p. 14).
Health and welfare and pension benefit plans should not serve employers primarily as ammunition in the competitive battles between the union and nonunion sectors of the industry.
Instead, they should be carefully designed to ensure that construction workers receive the most benefits for the dollars contributed.
If a union or nonunion contractor receives a secondary benefit of being better able to attract workers or bid on a project, so much the better.
The benefit plan that will be terminated as part of the settlement suffered from one major flaw that does not meet these criteria. It only covered public works projects. Workers under such limited plans that move with their employer from public projects to the private sector lose coverage.
While this might provide nonunion firms with a vehicle to meet the competition where they need it most, it does not help workers much.
The industry faces rough times ahead in being able to compete with other industries for the cream of a shrinking labor pool.
Both union and nonunion employers should start thinking of innovative ways to provide the best benefits they can afford. The time to start planning is before you have to