Wage review in infrastructure advanced by the Ministry of Labor (2)

The US Department of Labor is seeking to update its rules governing how contractors are paid while working on federally funded construction projects in what would amount to the biggest overhaul of Davis Act regulations- Bacon in four decades.

The proposal announced on Friday would change how the agency enforces the 1931 law that requires workers to be paid “prevailing wages,” or pay and benefits equal to local rates for similar jobs, when working on federally funded projects.

“The goal, of course, is to make sure that the Davis-Bacon regulations reflect our modern construction industry and our modern construction needs,” said Jessica Looman, acting administrator of the wage and hour division, in an exclusive interview Thursday before the announcement of the regulations. The DOL also “ensures that prevailing wages paid to construction workers on Federal construction projects are aligned with local construction wages in communities where Federal construction projects are underway.”

The proposal, if finalized, would result in higher wages for about 1.2 million U.S. construction workers on those projects, which, in turn, will draw more workers into the construction industry, said the Secretary of Labor. Marty Walch said at a press conference on Friday.

“The Davis-Bacon Rule will help us ensure that our skilled workers and wages cannot be undermined and we want to provide more opportunities for workers interested in working in innovative new construction projects like energy infrastructure buildings. , and I also think this role will help us attract more people into the industry. As you all know, we need construction workers all over America,” Walsh said.

The DOL calculates the “going wage” through a survey process and designates a rate as “going” if more than 50% of workers in a certain area are paid that amount. If the DOL does not receive enough responses, the agency averages the rates for a particular job in a specific area and asks construction contractors to use what is called a “blended rate.”

Opposition imminent

Notably, the Biden administration’s new proposal would revert to the definition of “governing wage” used from 1935 to 1983, a standard that set the going wage at the rate paid to at least 30% of workers performing a particular job in a zoned.

The change “allows us to better use the survey data we receive from construction industries, construction employers, so that we can have a pay rate in effect more often for workers on construction projects” , Looman said, instead of using the average rate. , which she said DOL has come to rely on “more” in recent years.

Industry groups that have long criticized the determinations as being based on inaccurate survey data and biased in favor of union rates, will likely oppose the provision.

However, building trades unions will likely applaud the Biden administration’s decision and have called on the DOL to step up its enforcement of the Davis-Bacon law, particularly on how employers calculate prevailing wages.

“The Davis-Bacon provisions are essential protection for working families across the United States because they ensure fair wages on the job,” said Mark McManus, general president of the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters. “We are pleased to see the Department of Labor taking action today to deliver on President Biden’s promise to working families.”

The Biden administration’s proposal also includes new anti-retaliation provisions, as well as a proposal to periodically update local wage rates between survey periods. The DOL is also investigating whether it should revise the data it uses when calculating wage rates on building and housing construction projects.

The agency will accept comments on the proposal for 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register, which is expected next week.

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