In a government contracting regulation made final last week the Department of Labor ordered that the number of women in the construction traders be significantly increased over the next five years.
The 1970 census estimated that 1.2 percent of this country's 3.4 million constructuin workers were female. The Labor Department has set a goal of 3.1 percent for the middle of next year. By mid-1981, the percentage goal is 6.9 percent.
This affirmative action program applies only to federally funded construction contracts for more than $10,000. While the goals are not considered quotas, contractors who do not meet them starting May 7 face the possible loss of government business. The contractors will not be subject to fines, the Labor Department said.
The goverment also announced that it will soon issue similar federal construction hiring goals for blacks and other minorities. In a notice in the Federal Register, the Labor Department said it will adandon previous so-called "imposed plans" that have been used in cities like Philadelphia where voluntary action failed.
A leap approximately 41,000 female workers to 106,000 in a few years decade has the cconstruction trades worried. In comments to the Labor Department 27 unions and contractors expressed fears that qualifies women are not available and that the goals would require the hiring of unqualifies women who would displace qualified men. They also objected to the cost of paperwork required to comply.
A typical industry comment came from Gragf Ward, director of government affairs for the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors National Association. Ward said his association's survey of its own members revealed that only 36 out of a total of 32,0000 workers were female. "The goals are going to be very difficult to implement," he said.
Jim Baxter, director of the equal opportunity division of the Associated General Contractors of American agreed and added that productivity would suffer.
It's a fact that new employes don't producers as much, he said, nothing that all apprentices would have to be women to fulfill the 1980 goal of 5 percent female participation.
Some women's groups admit that female construction workers will be at the bottom of the heap to start. However, Libby Howard, a union carpenter and co-founder of Women Working in Construction, maintains that female recruits will be as good as male beginners, although not superior to men as they had to be the past to penetrate virtually all-male professions.
Howard says there are now approximately 65 female construction workers in the Washington area.