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Lack of contract between union & contractors halts road projects across Michigan

Lack of contract between union & contractors halts road projects across Michigan

KALKASKA COUNTY, Mich. (WPBN/WGTU) -- Dozens of road projects across the state have come to a halt.

It's because of an expired contract between an engineers’ union and the contractors, and the two sides' inability to agree on a new one.

“Hopefully they can resolve it soon and at least get the road passable,” said Ernie Moomaw, who uses M-72 for his commute.

Cones but no workers is the sight on M-72 east of Kalkaska.

It's an MDOT project that is supposed to be complete in November, but that probably won’t happen.

That's because there’s no contract between Operating Engineers 324 and the Michigan Infrastructure & Transportation Association.

“So as of Labor Day our members have been at home even though they’re willing to go in and work while the contract stuff sorted out,” said Operating Engineers 324 Communications Director, Dan McKernan.

The engineers’ contract expired in June, but they worked through the summer before a defensive lockout by MITA.

“We are open to talk however this lockout can end if the union would ratify the industry proposed contract,” said MITA Executive Vice President Mike Nystrom.

Until an agreement is reached, dozens of projects including M-72 are at a standstill, and that's a concern for those that drive it every day.

“You’ll have people passing in the construction zone which is pretty dangerous because you’ve got hills you don’t know who’s on the other side,” said Sterling Gutherie, who commutes from Kalkaska to Traverse City.

“We’re going to have snow, ice and that road is not going to be plowed in the condition it’s in,” said Moomaw.

Both sides are saying the other is unwilling to negotiate.

“It’s very difficult to do negotiations on a two-party contract when one side refuses to talk,” said Nystrom.

“There’s nothing we can do other than continue to hope that they reach out and say ‘come on back the roads are more important’,” said McKernan.

MDOT says contractors are obligated to maintain a safe work zone for drivers at all times, even during delays.

MDOT says they are aware of 10 projects in northern Michigan this affects, those include:

  • US-31 in the Village of Elk Rapids, work suspended
  • US-31 from Barnes Road to Old Dixie Highway in Antrim County, work suspended
  • US-31/M-66 in Charlevoix, work on sidewalk ramps continues
  • I-75 in Cheboygan County, work suspended
  • M-72 east of Grayling, largely complete
  • M-72/M-93 in Grayling, work continues on curbs and gutters
  • US-23 East Tawas, some work continues
  • M-72 west of Kalkaska, work suspended
  • M-72 east of Empire, largely complete
  • M-32 in Montmorency County, work suspended
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