Labor dispute puts 2 county road projects on hold

Alexander Sinn • Sep 7, 2018 at 7:00 AM

ROBINSON TWP. — A labor dispute has put road projects across the state on hold, including two in Ottawa County.

The resurfacing of Osborn/Bass/Warner between 68th Avenue in Allendale Township and 104th Avenue in Robinson Township was halted Tuesday as two organizations could not agree over a contract that expired in June. The dispute is also delaying a project to resurface James Street, between U.S. 31 and Chicago Drive, in Holland Township.

The dispute is between the Michigan Infrastructure Transportation Association (MITA), a heavy equipment operators union, and the Operating Engineers Local 324, made up of 500 members of owners of construction companies. MITA has accused OE324 of “disruptive and coercive tactics” including refusing meetings.

“MITA has done everything within its power to maintain labor peace and stability,” the association’s executive vice president, Michael Nystron, said in a media release. “However, we’ve been forced into taking this action by the union. Getting these employees back to work is a top priority.”

The lockout will end when the union ratifies the industry-proposed contract, according to MITA, which has proposed a 14.4 percent wage increase over the $55.67 hourly wages and benefits from the previous contract.

Nystron rejected the idea that the defensive lockout is a “layoff” as “an attempt to misconstrue the situation by leadership at the (Operating Engineers).”

OE324 maintains the dispute is a layoff, not a strike or a lockout, as no contract is in place and workers are not choosing not to work. Officials are calling the stoppage “an unnecessary, aggressive move to force the Operating Engineers to contract using workers’ families as pawns.” 

The Ottawa County Road Commission released a statement Wednesday that says it is not a party to the negotiations.

Cottonwood Drive reconstruction work in Georgetown Township, between Baldwin and Bauer streets, will also see a partial shutdown due to the labor dispute, the Road Commission said.

It will remain the contractors’ responsibility to keep work zones safe for the public, according to the Road Commission.

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