UPDATE: Bridge construction projects across Michigan stall Tuesday; Specific locations released

ESCANABA, Mich. (WLUC) - UPDATE 4:05 p.m. Tuesday:
The Michigan Department of Transportation has confirmed there will be lockouts on the the following projects involved in the Operating Engineers/MITA dispute:

• I-75 Business Spur reconstruction/roundabout. Sault Ste. Marie. Contractor: M&M Excavating.
• M-28/I-75 interchange reconstruction. Chippewa County. Contractor: M&M Excavating.
• US-41/M-28 resurfacing. Ishpeming and Negaunee. Contractor: Payne & Dolan.
• US-41 resurfacing. Baraga County. Contractor: Payne & Dolan.
• US-41/M-26/M-203 resurfacing. Keweenaw County. Contractor: Bacco Construction.
• M-94 resurfacing in Alger, Marquette and Schoolcraft counties. Contractor: Bacco Construction.
• US-2/US-41 reconstruction. Rapid River to Gladstone. Contractor: Payne & Dolan.
• M-28 bridge replacement over Jackson Creek. Gogebic County. Contractor: Anlaan.
• M-95 (Carpenter Ave.) resurfacing. Iron Mountain. Contractor: Bacco Construction.
• M-35 Cedar River bridge repairs. Menominee County. Contractor: Grand River Construction.
• US-2 resurfacing. Iron Mountain. Contractor: Bacco Construction.

Additionally, MDOT said work has been delayed at the US-2 Escanaba River Bridge project in the ongoing labor dispute since July 5. Contractor: Zenith Tech

MDOT has said this list may change as they receive further information. MDOT does not know what the exact impact of the lockouts will be on these projects.

For more information on the labor disputes or negotiations, individuals may contact the union, MITA or the contractor.

A statement from MDOT Communications Director Jeff Cranson can be found in the 9 a.m. update of this story.

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UPDATE at 9:00 a.m. Tuesday:

Zenith Tech is locking out Operating Engineers 324 workers on the Escanaba River Bridge project Tuesday morning, according to union spokesperson Dan McKernan.

McKernan wasn't sure exactly how many OE 324 workers were still part of the project.

Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association executive vice president Mike Nystrom said Tuesday morning that a majority of projects across the state will be impacted by the lockout in some form, but he couldn't say exactly which ones.

MDOT says it doesn't have a list of impacted projects at this time, but it hopes both sides reach an agreement soon.

Here is a statement from MDOT Communications Director Jeff Cranson:

"It is important to understand that MDOT is not a party to these negotiations. Our priorities remain the safety of workers and the traveling public and maintaining traffic to alleviate delays as much as possible.

"In the event labor disputes affect active construction projects, MDOT has contractual specifications that address the contractor’s responsibilities. The contractors are obligated to maintain a safe work zone for motorists at all times and are required to do so for the full duration of the project even during delay caused by a labor dispute.

"The contracts call for MDOT to grant extensions because of labor disputes, similar to provisions for acts of God. If that happens, the contractors could incur costs. Those would not be compensated.

"Officials at MDOT take delays very seriously, working very hard to alleviate congestion and the inconvenience to drivers. So, of course, we hope the two sides reach agreement soon."

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ORIGINAL STORY:

Road construction projects across the state could be stalled Tuesday, as Operating Engineers 324 workers could be locked out of work.

According to a statement from Operating Engineers 324 on Friday afternoon, the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association sent out a letter Thursday to Operating Engineers 324 that it will institute a lockout of road builders starting at 7:00 a.m. Tuesday.

Major projects impacted include the Escanaba River Bridge proejct, Interstate 75 bridge repairs, road and bridge reconstruction on I-96 and road reconstruction and maintenance on I-696.

According to Operating Engineers 324, workers have been showing up to work every day without a contract since June. There have been no strikes or work stoppages.

MITA’s lockout is scheduled to begin during the last stretch of construction season before winter. According to Operating Engineers 324, MITA is actively encouraging their contractors to use untrained workers to run dangerous and costly equipment.

MITA says the lockout will end when the union ratifies the industry-proposed contract.

"After refusing to hold a single meeting to discuss a new contract, which expired June 1, MITA has decided to hold a defensive lockout of Operating Engineers, Local 324, said Michael Nystrom, executive vice president of the Michigan Infrastructure & Transportation Association. "This is a result of the coercive, disruptive and unlawful activities the union has spearheaded against MITA contractors. Work will continue on some construction projects across the state, and may be halted on others. MITA has notified Michigan Department of Transportation Director Kirk Steudle of the potential impact to construction projects."

Under the contract that expired June 1, the average OE worker was earning $55.67 per hour in wages and benefits. MITA says it is advancing a new proposal to increase wages and benefits by $8 an hour or 14.4 percent over five years to $63.67 per hour.

MITA also says it's a defensive lockout, not a layoff, and it will prioritize shutting down job sites with the safety of drivers in mind.

The members of Operating Engineers 324 – 15,000 men and women who operate and maintain heavy construction equipment – have continued to work throughout the summer despite some MITA contractors refusal to sign an agreement.

"This involuntary layoff of the dedicated men and women rebuilding our roads and bridges is a hostile act by the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association. Millions of drivers in Michigan are about to pay the price of MITA's short-sighted greed as road projects are turned over to untrained workers or go unfinished. The next time you're stuck in a traffic jam on I-75 or blow out a tire on I-96, you can thank MITA for not valuing your time or safety," said Dan McKernan, spokesman for Operating Engineers 324.

Stay with TV6, FOX UP and UpperMichigansSource.com for updates on this developing story.



 
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