About one year after reaching consensus on initiatives to increase market share and make union construction more profitable, the Construction Users Roundtable Tripartite Initiative has issued its first position papers on eliminating jurisdictional disputes, stopping absenteeism and ending excessive overtime.

The CURT Tripartite Initiative (CTI) includes dozens of owners, the 15 construction unions of the AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Dept. and representatives from six contractor groups. The McGraw-Hill Cos., parent of Engineering News-Record and McGraw-Hill Construction, is a CURT member.

The timing of the first report, which deals with work disruptions and jurisdictional disputes, is ironic. As the AFL-CIO is set to open its national convention and elections in Chicago on July 25, there is a flurry of behind-the-scenes meetings to prepare for the expected departure of the carpenters union and perhaps up to three other building trades unions from the labor federation. For weeks, owners and contractors have expressed concern about potential work disruptions and jurisdictional disputes if there is a split in the AFL-CIO or the BCTD.

The voluntary recommendations in the position paper "will be evergreen," says Gregory L. Sizemore, CURT’s executive vice president. Some revisions are likely in the aftermath of the AFL-CIO convention and the BCTD convention as some agreements are abrogated, Sizemore adds.

The carpenters actually withdrew from the AFL-CIO in 2001, unhappy with federation leadership. Since then, there have been ongoing efforts to bring them back into the labor federation. After four years, the AFL-CIO Executive Council has issued a final deadline: the carpenters must reaffiliate by the July convention or the provision in the AFL-CIO constitution that requires federation membership to be a member of an affiliated department, such as the BCTD, will be upheld.

Although there has been no formal announcement, no one expects a last-minute deal that would bring the carpenters back into the AFL-CIO. They are expected to be expelled from the BCTD when that group convenes its convention in Boston on August 9. And, as the AFL-CIO showdown draws closer, other construction union leaders opposed to the reelection of AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney, are rumored to be considering withdrawing from the federation.

On July 20, the general executive board of the teamsters’ union gave the green light to its president, James P. Hoffa to withdraw from the AFL if officials do not "agree to changes that substantially accomplish the goals set forth in the amendments and resolutions that have been submitted to the AFL-CIO Convention by the Change to Win Coalition."

That is not expected to happen. The coalition was formed in June by a group of dissident unions opposed to Sweeney’s policies, particularly those relating to organizing and grass roots politics. In addition to the teamsters and carpenters, the laborers, service employees, hotel workers and textile workers are members.

Although sources at the laborers union maintain they are not departing from the AFL-CIO, there are continued rumors that laborers’ President Terence M. O’Sullivan will pull out of the BCTD and redirect resources to the coalition. There is also speculation that the new president of the operating engineers’ union, Vincent J. Giblin, may follow.

Not withstanding the expected turmoil that the BCTD will experience, owners and contractors are questioning the future of the CTI. Sizemore says the owners and other participants have "high hopes" that progress will continue, regardless of what happens over the next few weeks.

The carpenters will still participate in the CURT-led initiative. "To go forward without [participation of the major trades] would cripple our initiative," asserts Sizemore.

Specifically, the position paper recommends that owners conduct mandatory pre-bid conferences with potential bidders to identify possible challenges, including jurisdictional assignments, jobsite issues or work schedules that potential contractors believe might lead to work disruptions. The owner should then request proposed recommendations for avoiding or resolving those issues. Model language regarding identifying potential issues for owners to use in a notice of pre-bid conference is included in the report.

Contractors are urged to get individual workers to take responsibility for abiding by prohibitions on work disruptions. They are urged to enforce those prohibitions by requiring employees to sign a statement prior to employment acknowledging that work disruptions are prohibited and that violators will not be rehired on the project or other projects for that contractor. Model language for employee forms is included.