DOL Seeking TX Contractor Input on Wages

TUESDAY, JANUARY 23, 2024


The Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor is asking the Texas building construction industry to participate in a survey to help establish prevailing wages.

This action is required under the Davis-Bacon and Related Acts for wages paid to workers on federally funded and federally assisted construction projects.

According to the DOL’s release, the department sets the prevailing wage rates that reflect the actual wages and fringe benefits paid to construction workers in the county where the work takes place.

This survey requests information about wages paid to construction workers on building construction projects in Texas where construction occurred between Jan. 29, 2023, and April 29, 2024, in the Austin and San Antonio areas, covering the counties of Atascosa, Bandera, Bastrop, Bexar, Caldwell, Comal, Guadalupe, Hays, Kendall, Medina, Travis, Wilson and Williamson. 

The survey is reportedly not limited to federally funded construction projects. Data collection will begin Jan. 29, 2024, and end on April 29, 2024. The department encourages all contractors, stakeholders and other interested parties to participate in the survey.

The department explains that participation in the survey process is critical to the publication of prevailing wage and fringe benefit rates that accurately reflect the rates paid in the area being surveyed. Complete determinations reduce the need for contractors to request additional labor classifications. 

The Wage and Hour Division plans to send notification letters to interested parties and contractors known to the agency. The letter will direct those parties to the website where their representatives can complete the survey online.

Additionally, it is noted that the best way to participate in the survey is online. To be included, contractors must complete and submit the online survey by April 29, 2024.

However, to submit the information by mail, interested parties must contact the department at 866-236-2773 and request a mailed form.

There is no need to have received a letter to participate. The survey can be completed online here.

Final DBRA Rule

In March of 2022, for the first time in 40 years, the DOL proposed a rulemaking for the DBRA to better reflect the needs of today’s construction industry and planned federal construction investments. The latest updates are described to be the “most comprehensive in decades.”

Then, in August last year, the department issued the final rule to update regulations that implement the Davis-Bacon Act and Davis-Bacon and Related Acts to provide greater clarity and enhance effectiveness in the modern economy.

The “Updating the Davis-Bacon and Related Acts Regulation” reportedly strengthens and streamlines the process for setting and enforcing wage rates on federally funded construction projects to make sure that federal government infrastructure investments are also investments in U.S. workers.

The final rule’s regulatory changes improve the department’s ability to administer and enforce DBRA labor standards more effectively and efficiently. These changes include the following:

  • Creating new efficiencies in the prevailing wage update system and making sure prevailing wage rates keep up with actual wages which, over time, would mean higher wages for workers;
  • Returning to the definition of “prevailing wage” used from 1935 to 1983 to ensure prevailing wages reflect actual wages paid to workers in the local community;
  • Periodically updating prevailing wage rates to address out-of-date wage determinations;
  • Providing broader authority to adopt state or local wage determinations when certain criteria are met;
  • Issuing supplemental rates for key job classifications when no survey data exists;
  • Updating the regulatory language to better reflect modern construction practices; and
  • Strengthening worker protections and enforcement, including debarment and anti-retaliation provisions.

According to the release, the DBRA requirements apply to an estimated tens of billions of dollars in federal and federally assisted construction spending each year and provide minimum wage rates for hundreds of thousands of U.S. construction workers.

The department also expects a significant increase in the numbers of industry workers due to investments in federally funded construction projects made possible by legislation such as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

The final rule took effect on Oct. 23, 2023.

The new regulations, however, were not met without backlash. In November, the Association General Contractors of America and the Associated Builders and Contractors filed a lawsuit in federal court to block the final rule.

The AGC said at the time that the administration “lacks the legal authority to expand the law to cover manufacturing facilities miles away from projects, or to retroactively impose the measure on already-executed contracts, among other concerns.”

Worker Shortage Struggles

Earlier this month, the AGC also issued a survey that found that construction firms have a mixed outlook for 2024. According to the AGC and Sage, this is in part due to firms predicting transitions in demand for projects, the types of challenges they will face and changes in technology, including artificial intelligence.

“A Construction Market in Transition: The 2024 Construction Hiring and Business Outlook” explains that, amid changes, contractors are struggling to cope with significant labor shortages, the impacts of higher interest rates and input costs, and a supply chain that, while better, is still far from normal.

Looking at the worker shortage specifically, Chief Economist Ken Simonson noted that more than two-thirds (69%) of the respondents expect to add to their headcount, compared to only 10% who expect a decrease. While just under half (47%) of firms expect to increase their headcount by 10% or less, nearly one-quarter anticipate larger increases.

The AGC adds that 77% of respondents reported they are having a hard time filling some or all salaried or hourly craft positions. The majority (55%) reportedly expects that hiring will continue to be hard (35%) or will become harder (20%).

That said, most firms report that they took steps in 2023 to attract and retain workers, including 63% who increased base pay rates more than in 2022. Additionally, 25% of firms provided incentives or bonuses and 24% of the firms increased their portion of benefit contributions and/or improved employee benefits. 

The AGC indicates that only 23% of respondents say they have not had any significant supply-chain problems. However, 64% noted that rising interest rates or financing costs are one of their biggest concerns for 2024, while 63% listed insufficient supply of workers or subcontractors and 62% are worried about the likelihood of an economic slowdown/recession.

In addition, 58% listed rising direct labor costs (pay, benefits, employer taxes), while 56% selected worker quality and 54% in materials costs as major concerns for the year.

Officials with Sage noted that construction firms have been seeking ways of adapting to the shortage of skilled workers and improving jobsite safety and productivity. According to the release, nearly 40% of firms said they will either increase their investment in drones (26%) or make an initial investment (14%).

An anticipated 30% of firms will make an initial investment in artificial intelligence (19%) or increase their investment (11%), while almost 30% plan to make more use of offsite production (21%) or start to (9%).

   

Tagged categories: Construction; Department of Labor; Good Technical Practice; Government; Government contracts; Industry surveys; Labor; NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Workers

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