MERRILLVILLE, Ind. (CBS) — Drivers in Northwest Indiana are getting a reprieve from roadwork.
As WBBM Newsradio 780’s Regine Schlesinger reports, a strike is shutting down projects in 14 counties.
The strike by the Operating Engineers Union began last Thursday, and now has expanded to a dozen Indiana asphalt plants.
The strike is keeping trucks from entering and entering the asphalt facilities, which means that road construction projects in Northwest Indiana are stalled.
LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Regine Schlesinger reports
Among the stalled projects is work on the Borman Expressway (I-80/94.) A spokesman for the Indiana Department of Transportation said the department had hoped to have all lanes of the expressway reopened by this month, but now that is likely to be delayed.
“It will probably delay the completion of that project,” spokesman Jim Pinkerton said. “Obviously, we’re not involved directly in the labor dispute that’s between the union and the contractors. From our perspective, no one wins when there is a strike situation. We’re hoping the two sides can resolve their differences as quickly as possible.”
The union and Northwest Indiana Contractors Association are locked in a disagreement over health care contributions. The most recent contract expired on May 31, and the union authorized the strike on June 5 after rejecting the latest offer from the Four County Constructors Group, the Indiana Constructors Association, and the Northwest Indiana Contractors Association.
NICA spokesman Keith Rose said that union proposed a $4.80 per hour increase over the next two years, while the contractors offered $2 per hour increase.
“We have not seen anything from an actuary they’ve talked to,” Rose said. “They have a very robust plan.”
International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 spokesman Ed Maher said that the difference lies in the union’s projection of about 12 percent inflation on health care costs, while the contractors’ number lies around 8 percent.
“We’re familiar with the cost of health care, and what we’ve seen is between 10 to 14 percent inflation,” Maher said. “We wish they were right. Skyrocketing inflation absolutely does not help anyone.”
The Northwest Indiana Post-Tribune contributed to this report, via the Sun-Times Media Wire.