City, trades in 'historic' pact

Posted: November 30, 2011

THE CITY and the Building and Construction Trades Council struck what both described as a historic agreement yesterday to tighten diversity and residency goals for major construction projects.

Mayor Nutter signed an executive order that re-established project-labor agreements (PLA) for the bidding process on public-works projects that cost at least $5 million or that require multiple construction trades - up from a construction cost of $250,000, which was established in a 1995 agreement.

Under the latest agreements, the city prefers that 50 percent of the craftsmen and laborers are city residents, 32 percent minority males and at least 7 percent women. Projects subject to a project-labor agreement will be referred to the mayor's office.

"This new PLA policy will aim to ensure stability, efficiency, equality and diversity in every major public-works project in the city of Philadelphia," Nutter said. "Construction sites should reflect the diversity of the city of Philadelphia, more importantly on projects that are paid for by hardworking city taxpayers."

A project-labor agreement is a contract that lays out the terms and conditions of employment for workers on a project prior to hiring with a labor organization.

Additionally, the agreements will reduce work stoppages, strikes and slowdowns.

"Our work will be done on budget, on time, with some of the most skilled tradespeople," Nutter said.

Agreement goals will be monitored by a third party to be agreed upon by the city, unions and contractors, and overseen by the Office of Economic Opportunity. The executive order re-establishes the Advisory Committee for Project Labor Agreements, consisting of several city officials including the mayor's chief of staff, the city solicitor and the managing director, all of whom are to monitor and review the agreements and periodically evaluate progress.

Nutter said the latest agreement would not make projects more costly.

Patrick Gillespie, business manager for the Building and Construction Trades Council, said the agreement would ensure inclusion of Philadelphia residents and minorities.

"This is indeed historic," Gillespie said. "The stereotypical view [is that we are] a bunch of fat white guys from the suburbs, but that is not the case, and never has been the case."

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