3/21/08

Union-only business-as-usual in Philly

With prodding from Gov. Rendell, the Philadelphia Building and Construction Trades Council today signed a project labor agreement that clears the way for the Convention Center Authority to choose a contractor to build the center's long-planned new wing. The authority could not seek bids for the $700 million state-funded construction project until the trades council formally accepted the agreement. It provides that only union labor will be used and that labor groups won't strike while the expansion is underway.

Rendell said he had persuaded Patrick C. Gillespie, the council's business agent, to sign the accord because of the strong possibility that conventions booked into the expanded building in 2011 would take their meetings elsewhere if it's not finished on schedule early that year.

"I expressed to Pat . . . the importance of no further delays," the governor said in a conference call with reporters from his office. Delays in recent months, caused by the protracted dispute over minority participation in the project, already had made some convention planners "really nervous and close to cancelling," he said.

Rendell said Gillespie had asked him, in exchange for signing the agreement, to support the candidacy of electricians' union leader John J. Dougherty for the State Senate to replace embattled incumbent Sen. Vincent Fumo.

But Rendell said he declined. He said he wasn't endorsing any of the three candidates in the state Senate Democratic primary race now and wasn't sure if he would support anyone.

The governor added that he would consider supporting a request by Gillespie to be reappointed to the Convention Center Authority board, where he lost his seat after Mayor Nutter took office. Gillespie had been named by John Street four years ago to the 15-member board, which is composed entirely of political appointees from the region.

Rendell said would "figure out a way to deal with" the reluctance of two of the largest and most powerufl unions - electricians and carpenters - to support City Council's effort to assure participation by minority sub-contractors and workers in the Convention Center project. The authority has said unions that do not comply with Council's demands wouldn't be allowed to participate.

Reached after the governor's news conference, Gillespie said he was assured that the construction work - the largest capital improvement Pennsylvania has ever undertaken - would be "totally a building-trades" project.

"The politics of this are finished and now we have to get down to the hard work of building it on time and on budget," Gillespie said.

The authority has been ready for more than a month to send out a 400-page, foot-high set of specifications to six construction companies that have pre-qualified to bid on the first phase of the project, pouring concrete and erecting a steel frame. That work would start this summer or fall and cost about $100 million, authority officials have said. The authority plans to seek bids for the rest of the construction later this year.

The expansion site, between Broad, 13th, Arch and Race streets, has been acquired and is largely cleared. A former office building at 121 N. Broad St. and a historic station on Race Street are the only structures left and will be taken down in a second phase of demolition this spring.

Once the center is enlarged, will have about 1 million square feet of exhibit space, equal to Washington, D.C.'s, convention center, and enabling the city to host larger meetings and trade shows or two medium-sized shows simultaneously.

(philly.com)

No comments:

Related Posts with Thumbnails