PORT ORCHARD — Heavy equipment operators returned to work Monday on the City of Port Orchard’s Tremont street widening project and Kitsap County’s Silverdale Way road improvement work after union officials and contractors agreed to a new three-year contract on Sept. 6.
The end of the 17-day work stoppage affecting the project and others throughout Western Washington was reached when negotiators for the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 302 and the Associated General Contractors of Washington, representing area contractors, tentatively agreed to a new three-year contract.
The Local 302 union branch said it directed its members to report back to work on Friday, Sept. 7, although Port Orchard’s Dorsey said he was notified that Sept. 10 would be the first day back for workers at the Tremont project.
Prior to the contract agreement announcement, the union and a number of contractors had disclosed earlier in the week they had reached side deals to begin work on individual projects throughout Western Washington.
The union represents workers who pump concrete, lay pavers and transport construction materials. The work stoppage in Kitsap County most noticeably affected work at the Tremont project’s South Kitsap Boulevard intersection and widening work on Silverdale Way, which was being overseen by Kitsap County.
At the time of the walkout, construction crews had just completed putting down the first layer of asphalt at the Tremont-South Kitsap intersection. That was a glimmer of good news for the City of Port Orchard, which otherwise might have had to deal with a muddy, unpaved intersection if the strike had continued into the winter months. The Silverdale Way project was only a few weeks away from completion, frustrating the county’s public works officials who feared the strike might run long enough to intersect with the start of the rainy season.
Gunnar Fridriksson, Kitsap County Public Works project manager, said workers from construction contractor Ceccanti were at the Silverdale Way project site on Sept. 7. He said county project staff met with crew leads Sept. 10 to go over the work schedule.
“With fall weather just around the corner,” Fridriksson wrote in an email, “concentration will be on getting the final lift of asphalt throughout the project.”
The City of Port Orchard issued a news release Sept. 10 stating that the contractor’s crew was back to work on the Tremont project. While detours are still in effect, the release stated, “a single lane in the roundabout is open to traffic and drivers are advised to follow established roundabout rules of the road.”
The release referenced the South Kitsap Boulevard-Tremont intersection roundabout, where curb and gutter work and base paving between SR 16 and South Kitsap Boulevard had been completed just prior to the start of the strike on Aug. 21.
Dorsey said last week that the city hadn’t yet determined if the Tremont project’s schedule would slide past its spring 2019 completion date. Once the remaining underground sewer and electrical work is completed, Dorsey said asphalt base coursework between South Kitsap and Port Orchard boulevards will get underway.
The Tremont project is still in its second phase. Work crews have removed existing utilities, are constructing a rock wall along the road and are moving forward with the roundabout at Pottery Avenue. Before phase 2 work is completed, crews will have made enough progress so that two-way traffic can move down the center of Tremont between South Kitsap Boulevard and Pottery, according to the city’s Tremont project website (www.tremontstreetwidening.com).
City officials say that the street widening project will improve travel times for drivers and commuters connecting between the city and State Route 16. Additionally, they said the roadway will be brought up to current standards that improve safety, particularly for bicyclists and pedestrians, and will add a polished “gateway” appearance for motorists entering into Port Orchard on one of its three major arterials.
According to The Seattle Times, the master labor agreement agreed to by negotiators covers work throughout Western Washington. Workers at the outer edges of the region, an area where the cost of living is lower, will receive a 16-percent wage increase. Contractors, the newspaper said, had sweetened their total compensation offer throughout the week.
What was finally agreed to was an offer to increase total pay and benefits by 17.8 percent over three years. That is higher than the 15-percent increase union members rejected last month. Union members currently make $37.70 to $43.13 an hour in base pay, following a 6-percent wage jump over their most recent three-year contract, which expired in June.
While the terms of a new contract were agreed to by both parties, union members must ratify it for it to officially take effect.