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City denies union pay claims.

The Department of Education denies allegations brought by a building trade association last week that it violated wage and hour laws on the construction of leased space projects.

In a press release last week, the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York vowed to fight a part of the City's $13.1 billion five-year capital to build 50 new charter schools. The association alleges that the Department of Education does not require professional competency and criminal background checks for contractors on leased space and charter/ partnership school projects, which is required by the New York School Construction Authority. "The Department of Education has been well aware of our concerns for a long time now and ignored them," said a BCTC spokesperson. "This system invites abuses on these projects that contribute to poor quality, unsafe conditions and even illegalities. Union labor and reputable contractors have almost no chance to perform work on these projects given this bottom of the barrel approach."

However, a Department of Education spokesperson said there is no truth to the allegations.

"It is absolutely baffling that the BCTC does not support a $13.1 billion investment that puts the interests and future of our children first," said a DOE spokesperson. "And it is regrettable that rather than continuing the discussion of the leasing issue with us, the BCTC has decided to run to the media."

The BCTC only opposes a portion of the five-year plan, yet to be approved by the City Council. "We oppose the $1.5 billion for leased space, charter and partnership school construction projects," said the BCTC spokesperson.

At the New York Building Congress breakfast last week, William Goldstein, president and CEO of the New York City School Construction Authority, said the DOE adheres to the State's prevailing wage laws, but vowed to work with the unions to settle the disagreement.

The BCTC has also accused the DOE of withholding payroll data on charter school projects.

The Department says it has cooperated. "We've provided all requested information and we are complying with the law," said the DOE spokesperson.

The association said the DOE's use of low wage labor is hurting its 100,000 members in loss of work, but more than money is at stake, said Thomas Maguire, president of the International Union of Operating Engineers.

"It's about quality work," Maguire said after the New York Building Congress Breakfast. "Some of the work has been shoddy. You are talking about the safety of school buildings."
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Author:Nelson, Barbara
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Geographic Code:1U2NY
Date:Nov 19, 2003
Words:414
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