The Four County
Highway Contractors Group—which represents, among others, the general
contractor for the Chesterton Downtown utility project, Rieth-Riley—released
a statement after deadline on Monday to stake out its own public position on
the job action taken last week by Operating Engineers Local 150.
That strike has
effectively shut down heavy roadwork in Northwest Indiana—including the
re-surfacing of South Calumet Road—after Local 150 began picketing asphalt
plants on Monday morning.
Four County, initial contract negotiations focused on two “economic”
proposals: its own for $0.00 additional pay per hour in Year One and $0.50
in Year Two; Local 150’s for $2.35 in Year One and $2.45 in Year Two. Then,
on Saturday, June 4, Four County made its second offer: $1.00 in Year One,
$1 in Year Two.
noted that contractors currently pay $61.15 per hour (plus payroll taxes)
and time-and-a-half for overtime or $81.75 per hour (plus payroll taxes).
That hourly figure is comprised of a base wage (for Class I) of $39.20 per
hour and a fringe package of $21.95 per hour, Four County said.
have explained to the union that these labor costs, which include health
insurance, pension, and vacation savings, are unsustainable if union
contractors are to remain competitive,” Four County said. “As contractors
have explained, they perform two types of work: private work for which they
are no longer competitive, and public work for which taxpayers pay.
believe that at some point very soon INDOT and other governmental agencies
will say ‘Enough is enough’ and begin looking for lower cost providers. An
economic package of nearly $66 per hour, as Local 150 proposes, is just too
much for the taxpayer and way more than most employees fortunate enough to
be working receive.”
On Sunday, June
5, Local 150 rejected the contractors’ offer, while discussions on Monday,
June 6, proved unfruitful, Four County said.
June 9, Local 150 began striking building-project jobs and on Monday
expanded the strike to picketing asphalt plants.
Four County, Local 150’s economic package has seen a net increase of 36
percent over the last six years.
“Local 150 has
stated that they want to keep their healthcare coverage and benefits,” Four
County said. “The contractors’ offer does just that. The only fringe that is
being impacted by inflation is the healthcare fringe. Yet Local 150 is
insisting on increases totaling $1.70 for other fringes plus increases to
the base wage totaling $0.75 per hour. Local 150 continues to insist on a
total economic package of $4.80 per hour over two years, of which they
allocate $2.35 per hour for healthcare. The contractors’ offer totals
difference between the union’s estimate of healthcare (a total of $2.35 per
hour over two years) and the contractors’ estimate of healthcare (a total of
$2.00 per hour over two years) is the ‘estimated rate of inflation on
healthcare,”” Four County added.
“The union is
insisting on a 12-percent increase to healthcare (though no justification
has been produced other than ‘we have to have’ this much). The contractors,
based on experience in their own business, believe 8 percent is a more
accurate number. Based on an existing $10.00 per hour health insurance
benefit and using the contractors’ 8 percent, the annual increase for
healthcare would be $0.80 per year (the contractors have offered $1.00 per
inflationary issue, the contractors have provided Local 150 with viable
options to reduce their healthcare costs that in no way jeopardize the
status of their healthcare plan under the new federal healthcare law.” Four
County said. “Unlike the majority of businesses and other unions, to date
Local 150 has shown no signs of entertaining any of these cost-cutting
Four County also
denied Local 150’s statement that numerous contractors are bolting their
group and signing a contract under a new independent contractors’ group.
appears that Local 150 has aggressively pursued companies (in some cases
smaller firms) who traditionally sign on to the master agreement after
negotiations, in order to get them to sign their new agreement. To date, we
are only aware of two companies that have signed Local 150’s new agreement.”
“The reality is
that the member of the Four County Group represent the vast majority of the
projects and man-hours in the heavy and highway market,” Four County
concluded. “As such, a work stoppage (when and however it may occur) will
have a significant and widespread impact on the vast majority of public and
private projects in the region.”
To combat the rumors common to “negotiating situations,” the Four County
Highway Contractors Group has established a website at
nwihighwaycontractors.com with information for members of Operating
Engineers Local 150, Four County said in a statement released after deadline
Posted to that website is a comparison of Four County’s current economic
proposal and Local 150’s. Four County is proposing $1.00 additional pay per
hour effective May 1, 2011 and $1.00 effective May 1, 2012.
Local 150 is proposing a total package of $2.35 effective May 1, 2011, of
which $1.15 is for healthcare: wages $0.35, apprenticeship $0.05, retiree
medical savings $0.25, construction research fund $0.05, pension $0.50, and
healthcare $1.15. According to Four County, “additional requested over and
above health and welfare”: $1.20.
Local 150 is proposing a total package of $2.45 effective May 1. 2012, of
which $1.20 is for healthcare: $0.40 wages, $0.05 apprenticeship, $0.25
retiree medical savings, $0.05 construction research fund, pension $0.50,
and healthcare $1.20. According to Four County, additional requested over
and above health and welfare”: $1.25.
“The contractors believe it is important that this information be shared
with all of the contractors’ employees who are affected by the labor
negotiations,” Four County said. “In the coming days, we will begin to
update this webpage as circumstances warrant.”
“For any union members reading this site, please understand that we are
posting these facts for informational purposes,” Four County added. “If you
have questions about the negotiations, these should be addressed to Local
150 as your bargaining representative.”