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Labour deal to save $452m on Tappan Zee Bridge

19 Jun 12 A project labour agreement (PLA) has been reached that is expected to save US$452m (£288m) on the Tappan Zee Bridge in New York, USA.

The agreement is between the Thruway Authority and 14 labour organizations. "Replacing the Tappan Zee Bridge represents one of the largest public infrastructure project in the nation, and the agreement reached today will allow thousands of New York's working men and women to secure good jobs building a new, safer bridge," said governor Andrew Cuomo. "This agreement will save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, while putting in place important protections for our workers. For too long we have talked about replacing the Tappan Zee, and we cannot wait any longer. Now is the time for action."

Key provisions contained in the PLA include:

  • A standardised 40-hour work week for all trades and the flexibility to schedule four 10 hour work days to optimize construction for a combined estimated savings of US$123m;
  • A higher ratio of apprentices to journeypersons than typically allowed in collective bargaining agreements, saving an estimated US$59m;
  • Giving workers that arrive one hour prior to their shift US$25 a day rather than an hour of overtime, saving an estimated US$59 million;
  • Standardised holidays that eliminate overtime for service trades, saving approximately US$2.6m.

The PLA also creates employment opportunities for union members across the Hudson Valley and New York Metropolitan Region, assures payment of fringe benefits, and acts as a mechanism to settle jurisdictional disputes through an organised grievance process. A stipulation of the agreement states that lock-out or other work disruptions, including renegotiations of area collective bargaining agreements, is not permitted.

Chairman of the New York State Thruway Authority Howard Milstein said: "This agreement is good for taxpayers, good for workers, and good for the project. Significant savings will be realized and thousands of trade jobs will be secured because of this milestone agreement. It ensures that we will have reliable, local labor for the duration of the construction project."

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Ross Pepe, president of Construction Industry Council of Westchester and Hudson Valley, said: "The Project Labor Agreement is vital for a complex and large project like replacement of the Tappan Zee Bridge. The PLA provides for continuity of the workforce, cost efficiencies, flexibility and productivities saving millions of dollars while at the same time assuring local workers the opportunity to participate in public works."

Approximately US$400 million will be available for disadvantaged business enterprises (DBE) contractors, with a sizable portion going to minority and woman-owned businesses.  

Under the agreement, a memorandum of understanding will be signed between the Building Trades Council of Westchester and Putnam, the Rockland County Buildings Trades Council, the New York State Buildings Trades Council, and the Thruway Authority, as representative for the selected design-build contractor. The agreement is subject to final approval from the Federal Highway Administration and the New York State Thruway Authority Board of Directors.

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