Hundreds of heavy equipment operators are walking off the job and onto the picket line in northern Indiana.
They’re not fighting for higher wages, but more health insurance benefits.
The International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 expanded the strike Monday to include 12 asphalt plants, too.
UPDATE: Area contractors issued a statement on the Operating Engineers strike:
Four County noted that contractors currently pay $61.15 per hour (plus payroll taxes) and time-and-a-half for overtime or $81.75 per hour (plus payroll taxes). That hourly figure is comprised of a base wage (for Class I) of $39.20 per hour and a fringe package of $21.95 per hour, Four County said.
“The contractors have explained to the union that these labor costs, which include health insurance, pension, and vacation savings, are unsustainable if union contractors are to remain competitive,” Four County said. “As contractors have explained, they perform two types of work: private work for which they are no longer competitive, and public work for which taxpayers pay.
Contractors believe that at some point very soon INDOT and other governmental agencies will say ‘Enough is enough’ and begin looking for lower cost providers. An economic package of nearly $66 per hour, as Local 150 proposes, is just too much for the taxpayer and way more than most employees fortunate enough to be working receive.”
On Sunday, June 5, Local 150 rejected the contractors’ offer, while discussions on Monday, June 6, proved unfruitful, Four County said.
On Thursday, June 9, Local 150 began striking building-project jobs and on Monday expanded the strike to picketing asphalt plants.
According to Four County, Local 150’s economic package has seen a net increase of 36 percent over the last six years.
“Local 150 has stated that they want to keep their healthcare coverage and benefits,” Four County said. “The contractors’ offer does just that. The only fringe that is being impacted by inflation is the healthcare fringe. Yet Local 150 is insisting on increases totaling $1.70 for other fringes plus increases to the base wage totaling $0.75 per hour. Local 150 continues to insist on a total economic package of $4.80 per hour over two years, of which they allocate $2.35 per hour for healthcare. The contractors’ offer totals $2.00.”
“The sticking difference between the union’s estimate of healthcare (a total of $2.35 per hour over two years) and the contractors’ estimate of healthcare (a total of $2.00 per hour over two years) is the ‘estimated rate of inflation on healthcare,”” Four County added.
Read the rest of the contractor’s position here.