Chesterton Tribune

Local 150: Employers' numbers are wrong

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The Four County Highway Contractors Group has mischaracterized the economic package which Operating Engineers Local 150 has put on the table, Local 150 is saying.

Meanwhile, Local 150’s strike has now expanded to include all road and building work being performed under expired contracts with Four County, the Indiana Constructors Association, and the Northwest Indiana Contractors Association.

Local 150 spokesman Ed Maher told the Chesterton Tribune today that a press statement released on Monday by Four County—in which Four County contested Local 150’s position that the basic issue of the strike is healthcare costs—is incorrect in detail.

“We won’t get into the specific economics,” Maher said. “But the numbers they are putting out there are not accurate. They’re painting a picture of negotiations that are not accurate.”

“Negotiations are most effectively done at the bargaining table, not in the newspaper,” Maher added. “The employers have not shown much interest to meet us to negotiate but have found a new enthusiasm for negotiating in the newspaper. And we’d like to see them bring that enthusiasm to the bargaining table.”

“We’ve stated our willingness to sit and continue talks at any time,” Maher said. “We’re quite simply prepared to negotiate at any time, any place.”

Is anybody talking right now?

“They’re talking to the media,” Maher replied.

Local 150 has stated repeatedly that the crux of the strike is the inflationary pressure on healthcare costs, not wages. Four County, for its part, is disputing that claim and has released numbers which it says shows that less than half of the total package increase demanded by Local 150 would go to healthcare.

“Skyrocketing healthcare inflation rates, projected between 10 and 14 percent, are of particular concern to Local 150, whose self-run insurance fund provides coverage for 23,000 families,” Local 150 Financial Secretary David Fagan said in a statement released today. “Employers debate the rate of inflation but we pay the bills, so we have watched the costs come up.”

“The men and women we represent perform hard physical work in all sorts of environments, so proper healthcare is something we are absolutely committed to,” Fagan noted. “Negotiations on agreements that cover 2,500 people are extremely complex but the most important issue remains covering healthcare costs.”

The Strike Expands

The strike which began on Thursday expanded today to include all road and building work performed by the three separate contractors associations. The strike began on June 9 and affected at that time chiefly crane shops, Maher said. On Monday, Local 150 undertook a picket of the region’s asphalt plants. Today, all other and remaining work being done by Four County, the Indiana Constructors Association, and the Northwest Indiana Contractors Association came to a halt.

Chesterton municipal officials have expressed their frustration at the strike, which has left South Calumet Road in the Downtown an open wound. Town Engineer Mark O’Dell has said that two to three days of work tops would be enough to finish the Downtown utility project and open South Cal to traffic.

Maher acknowledged today that municipal officials around the region are voicing their concern, as the summer public-works season looks to be slipping away. “But the strike has to end” before those projects can be pursued, Maher said, “and the only way the strike will end is through negotiation. The most important thing we can do is negotiate a mutually beneficial agreement.”



Posted 6/15/2011