US President George W Bush issued an executive order on Thursday allowing
federal contractors rebuilding in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to pay
below the prevailing wage.
In a notice to Congress, Bush said the hurricane had caused "a national
emergency" that permits him to take such action under the 1931 Davis-Bacon
Act in ravaged areas of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi.
Bush's action came as the federal government moved to provide billions of dollars
in aid, and drew rebukes from two of organised labour's biggest friends in Congress,
representative George Miller of California and Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts,
"The administration is using the devastation of Hurricane Katrina
to cut the wages of people desperately trying to rebuild their lives and their
communities," Miller said.
"President Bush should immediately realize the colossal mistake
he has made in signing this order and rescind it and ensure that America puts
its people back to work in the wake of Katrina at wages that will get them and
their families back on their feet," Miller said.
"I regret the president's decision," said Kennedy.
"One of the things the American people are very concerned about is shabby
work and that certainly is true about the families whose houses are going to
be rebuilt and buildings that are going to be restored," Kennedy said.
The Davis-Bacon law requires federal contractors to pay workers at least the prevailing
wages in the area where the work is conducted. It applies to federally funded
construction projects such as highways and bridges.
Bush's executive order suspends the requirements of the Davis-Bacon law for
designated areas hit by the storm.