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Prevailing wage reporting change catches heat (UPDATE)

By Paul Snyder

Construction companies in Wisconsin are not convinced a revised prevailing wage reporting spreadsheet from the state will make their jobs any easier.

The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development has pared down what had been a 50-field spreadsheet to 34 fields, but Roger Thimm, controller of Iron Ridge-based Wondra Construction Inc., said the reporting will still be a burden on contractors.

“I really don’t think it’s changed too much,” he said. “I looked at it, and this is not, ‘Oh boy, this will be easy from now on.’ It’s still going to be cumbersome.”

DWD Spokesman John Dipko said the department decided to change the spreadsheet after a series of meetings with contractor groups and contractors in the past two months.

“We think that everyone involved, from the department to contractors, believes that the meetings and discussions resulted in a better understanding on everyone’s part,” he said, and added the revised spreadsheet was not “overly burdensome to contractors.”

Dipko said the department has no plans to further scale back the number of fields.

The state’s prevailing wage law changed Jan. 1. It now requires contractors to prove they are paying prevailing wages to employees working on state and local government public works projects valued at $25,000 or more. Under previous law, the proof was not required unless the project was valued at $234,000 or more.

Prevailing wages are based on annual contractor survey results that show what workers are paid on private projects. The state uses the results to set a prevailing wage in each county for a particular type of job.

Nonunion companies originally were required to fill out a 50-field spreadsheet. In January, the Associated Builders and Contractors of Wisconsin Inc. requested an injunction blocking enforcement of the law.

That challenge remains under review in Dane County Circuit Court, and Judge John Markson is expected to rule May 7.

Dipko said DWD will provide Markson with the revised spreadsheet.

“We believe it further supports the fact that the department is simply carrying out the requirements of the prevailing wage law,” he said.

John Mielke, ABC vice president, disagreed.

“The legislation specifically identifies four criteria,” he said. “This doesn’t change the basic point that these changes should have been made through the rule-making process.”

The state budget called for reports to include contractors’ names, the type of work performed by every employee on a prevailing-wage project, an accurate record of all hours worked and the wages paid for that work.

The DWD spreadsheet includes requests for the last four digits of Social Security numbers, straight and overtime hours for each day, weekly wage and hour totals and union affiliation.

Brady Dahms, a project manager for Menomonie-based Halverson Bros. Inc., said the revised spreadsheet is not easier than the first one, but the law must be followed.

“You just get used to doing it,” he said.

Mielke said the court case forced DWD to re-examine what it asks of contractors, which is good, but the spreadsheet still asks too much.

“I think it helps prove our point,” he said. “If there weren’t legal pressure, I don’t think they’d have even done this.”

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2 comments

  1. Prevaiing wage is the same as union wage. Coincidence?

  2. Requiring a person’s name and last four digits of their Social Security number could potentially make this data very easy to use for identity theft.

    See http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2009/07/social-insecurity-numbers-open-to-hacking.ars

    A partial excerpt from the article:

    “… the government has centralized its handling of SSN assignments and provided documentation of the procedures. The first three digits are based on the state where the SSN was originally assigned, and the next two are what’s termed a group number. The last four digits are ostensibly assigned at random…”

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