May 8, 2012 | last updated June 1, 2012 2:24 pm

CT legislature backs construction labor bill

Connecticut lawmakers approved legislation that allows government agencies to negotiate labor agreements on construction projects, The Associated Press reports.

The House on Monday voted 109-37 to approve the measure, following Senate approval last week. It now goes to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who has promised to sign it.

Malloy emphasized parts of the legislation that give the state transportation commissioner more flexibility in directing how high construction and maintenance projects are contracted. The governor says the legislation will make Connecticut more competitive in applying for critical federal money.

The legislation allows government to negotiate so-called project labor agreements that establish a dispute resolution process between contractors and unions.

Associated Builders and Contractors, a trade association, has criticized such agreements, calling them anti-competitive. The group says the agreements force contractors and subcontractors to recognize unions.

Lelah Campo, president of the Connecticut Associated Builders and Contractors, said contractors will be compelled to pay into union health and welfare funds, which will add to the cost of local and state construction projects.

Sen. Edith Prague, co-chairwoman of the legislature's Labor and Public Employees Committee, said cities and towns have the option to enter into project labor agreements but are not required to do so.

The agreements will make skilled workers more available, prevent construction delays, advance the hiring of minority and women-owned businesses and improve local employment, she said.

Project labor agreements help streamline public works projects with a 'no strike, no lock-out' pledge by contractors and unions and a dispute resolution process, Prague said.

The legislation also requires the state transportation commissioner to have agency employees conduct development and inspection work when possible to reduce consultants' work.

Ben Phillips, a spokesman for CSEA/SEIU, which represents engineers and other professionals at the Department of Transportation, said that provision was added after the union urged Connecticut to use state workers rather than contractors.

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