Union, contractors reach tentative deal to end construction strike

The new agreement will enable Kitsap County projects to resume construction.

PORT ORCHARD — Heavy equipment operators, including pavers who lay asphalt on new roadways, will return to work on the Tremont Street widening project as early as Monday, Port Orchard public works director Mark Dorsey said Friday, Sept. 7.

The end of the 17-day work stoppage affecting the project and others throughout Western Washington was reached yesterday, Sept. 6, 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.

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.

The union represents workers who pump concrete, lay pavers and transport construction materials. The work stoppage most noticeably affected paving work at the Tremont project’s South Kitsap Boulevard intersection. At the time of the walkout, construction crews had just completed laying the first layer of asphalt at the 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 Local 302 union branch reported to the contractors’ group that it was directing its members to report back to work on Friday, Sept. 7, although Port Orchard’s Dorsey said he was notified that Monday, Sept. 10 would be the first day back for workers at the Tremont project.

The union members must ratify the agreement before the new contract becomes official.

Earlier in the day prior to the tentative contract agreement, the City of Port Orchard issued a news release stating that the contractor’s ability to complete the remaining paving within “the allowable paving window” was in doubt.

“We cannot predict the impact the strike will have on the overall project schedule until a resolution is met, but the public will be notified as soon as the project resumes,” the city’s release stated. The statement confirmed that the curb and gutter work and base paving between SR 16 and South Kitsap Boulevard had been completed.

“Although Tremont Street will still be closed at Pottery Avenue, and the Phase 2 Detour will still be in effect through winter of 2019, the completion of this activity has allowed for interim use of the new roundabout at South Kitsap Boulevard,” the statement reported.

Dorsey said the city has so far been unable to determine if the Tremont project’s schedule will slide past its spring 2019 completion date. Workers will pick up where they left off by forming curb and gutter elements of the roundabout and widening project. 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.

While the work stoppage stilled the region’s bustling construction zones, especially in the booming downtown Seattle district, it has impacted Kitsap County projects, including the almost-completed road-widening work on Silverdale Way and a shoulder-widening project on Bainbridge Island.

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.