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GHS Construction

Equipment operators strike at  GHS site

Recorder/Paul Franz
Joe Efantis of Springfield, Jeff Martin of North Adams and Paul Quink of Ware, members of Local 98, are on strike at the Greenfield High School project. The I-91 bridge rebuilding project was also affected.

Recorder/Paul Franz Joe Efantis of Springfield, Jeff Martin of North Adams and Paul Quink of Ware, members of Local 98, are on strike at the Greenfield High School project. The I-91 bridge rebuilding project was also affected.

GREENFIELD — An equipment operators union working on the new Greenfield High School project picketed Friday against its contractor.

Although some other union workers respected the picket line, the job action should not impact the $66 million school construction project set to be completed in the summer of 2015, the town’s onsite construction supervisor predicted.

“Right now, there’s no impact. We’re still working. There are plenty of contractors that continue to work,” said Jim Byrne, the town’s project manager. “Our hope is it is just a one-day thing. Time will tell.”

Byrne said the site work, which largely involves heavy equipment, is 90 percent complete for the first phase of the four-phase project.

Phase one involves the creation of a two-story structure that will include classrooms, the library, an administrative wing and a boiler room and custodial area. The goal is to finish phase one by next summer, Byrne said.

It was unclear Friday what the prospects were for the strike to drag on long enough to affect the high school project’s progress.

Local 98 International Union of Operating Engineers, whose members operate heavy equipment like excavators and bulldozers used for much site preparation at large construction sites, is striking against Northeast Contractors Inc. of Ludlow after three-year contract negotiations stalled over the future of the entry-level crane operator position. Northeast is a subcontractor on the job.

The union has been negotiating with Northeast Contractors since May. The union has worked without a contract since June.

Local 98 represents approximately 1,300 members that include heavy equipment operators and mechanics across western Massachusetts, western New Hampshire and Vermont, according to the union’s website.

Union president Eugene Melville Jr. said Northeast Contractors wants to eliminate the entry-level job of oilers, who provide direction to crane operators. The union wants to maintain the position for safety reasons. Northeast Contractors did not return calls for comment.

Holding red and white strike signs, three union employees, Paul Quink, Jeff Martin and Joe Efantis, followed the orders of Melville to stop work Friday at the high school.

They were among 100 equipment operators who stopped work on 10 projects throughout western Massachusetts.

The union also picketed on Stillwater Road in Deerfield, where three members have worked on the state Department of Transportation’s Interstate 91 bridge construction project.

The construction is part of the $36.2 million state project to knock down and replace the bridges that carry Interstate 91 across the Deerfield River at Stillwater.

The project began last June and is scheduled to be finished by April 2016 with J.F. White as contractor.

You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at:
kmckiernan@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261 ext. 268.

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