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GREATER BOSTON-The use of project labor agreements on construction projects in cities and towns in this state is increasing, even as an executive order is attempting to ban their use on federally financed projects.

PLAs guarantee against work stoppages provided only union employees are hired on the job. On large jobs–such as the Big Dig–a PLA is considered crucial to the management of the construction project. But PLAs are increasingly being used on smaller projects to prevent delays. “PLAs are winning a lot of friends,” Joe Nigro, secretary treasurer of the Building and Construction Trades Council/Metro District, tells GlobeSt.com. “They are being used on more and more projects.”

This past February, President George W. Bush issued an executive order preventing the use of PLAs on new construction projects that are federally financed. The Big Dig received a waiver for the remainder of its work but the Building and Construction Trades Department of the AFL-CIO recently successfully challenged Bush’s order when a judge issued a preliminary injunction against enforcing the order on a bridge project near Washington D.C.<PCritics complain that PLAs limit competition and drive up the costs of a project. The Associated Builders and Contractors Inc. did not return calls by press time but the organization has reportedly stated that the increase in competition that occurs in the absence of PLAs can save a project 5% to 7% in costs. ABC reportedly asked the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority to reexamine the proposed new convention center's PLA to ensure that costs are being kept down. It is reportedly unlikely that the MCCA will not use its PLA.

Nigro contends that if those critics paid their construction workers the right amount of money, gave them a pension and health insurance, “we wouldn’t have to worry about PLAs. They don’t want their employees to be members of a union.” According to Nigro, any contractor can bid on a PLA project and his organization can provide union members to work on the job.

Among the many local PLas, Nigro notes that Harvard University has had a PLA for the past 12 years. “Jobs are getting done in time and on budget,” points out Nigro. “All these cities–like Chelsea and Weymouth and Worcester–are crying for PLAs.”

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