Construction workers must get rest breaks, City Council says
The Austin City Council told employers Thursday that they must allow construction workers to take rest breaks.
At its regular meeting, the council unanimously passed an apparently groundbreaking ordinance requiring that construction workers be granted a rest break of at least 10 minutes for every four hours worked. It also mandates that no construction worker go for more than 31⁄2 hours without a break.
Employers will face fines of up to $500 for each day a violation occurs.
Council Member Bi l l Spelman’s office said enforcement would be complaint-driven.
Greg Casar with the Austinbased Workers Defense Project said the group receives about a dozen calls a day from workers who say they either aren’t getting paid or are being put in dangerous situations.
“This may be convenient” to ignore, Casar said, “but sometimes the truth stares you in the face.”
Harry Savio, executive vice president of the Homebuilders Association of Greater Austin, said his organization did not
Continued from B have enough time to scrutinize the ordinance because it was “hidden on the agenda” in a section that he said made it difficult to spot. He asked the council to delay its vote, saying that the penalties are too high and that the ordinance has technical flaws.
The City Council’s scrutiny of worker safety issues began after the June 2009 deaths of three men in a scaffolding collapse at a West Campus highrise. Weeks after the deaths, a report by the Workers Defense Project found that four in 10 Austin construction workers said in a survey that their employer did not give them breaks, and 27 percent said they were not provided with drinking water. Construction industry representatives disputed the report.
The national AFL-CIO said last month that it was not aware of a national, state or local precedent for a rest break law for construction workers.
Construction workers and supporters pushed for the break ordinance Thursday morning in front of Austin City Hall.