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Road Construction Projects Resume with Settlement of Strike

By Eileen Buckley

Buffalo, NY – Several major construction projects should be getting back on track now that a 12 week old strike by operating engineers union is over.

Union construction workers were back operating heavy equipment along a section of Main Street in North Buffalo Wednesday. The International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 17, reached a tentative agreement with the Association of General Contractors Monday.

Dozens of workers walked off the job back in April against 21 area contractors and subcontractors which are all members of the Association. At that time, the union had rejected a three-year contract offer because it did not provide pay raises.

Details of the contract are not being revealed, but Local 17 business agent Mark Kirsch says this new, multi-year contract will provide pay increases. It also retains paid holidays, but Kirsch says the union did offer some minor work-rule concessions.

"The paid holidays will remain," Kirsch said. "But we worked it out, and as far as, I'm concerned it is a very good agreement with AGC."

Association of General Contractors president A.J. Castelbuono says both sides finally came to terms and reached a compromise. Over the past two months, the strike idled several major road repair projects including the major reconstruction along Main Street, and also halted construction of a multi-million dollar municipal golf course in West Seneca.

"Unfortunately while we were dancing, if you will, about a third of the construction season past us by," Castelbuono said. "That is going to put some of the projects back and some projects will be bumped to a different year."

The union represents about 1,000 workers. The strike affected 300 members who operate bulldozers, backhoes and cranes. But Kirsch says many workers voiced support for the strike.

"Even at the 12 week mark of this strike, the calls to my office had been overwhelming from the members in support of everything that myself and the negotiating committee were doing," Kirsch said.

Workers will be voting on the new deal Friday night. Kirsch says he's confident members will ratify the contract offer.