Seattle TBM halted by labor dispute 19 Sep 2013
- All set and ready to go and the world's largest TBM ever at 17.5m diameter made its first cut through the launch shaft end wall back in July, only to be stumped by a broiling labor dispute about who should handle the muck off the construction site and into haulage barges at the wharf.
- All members of the construction JV Dragados/Tutor Perini and the project owner's team in WSDOT were eager to see the giant Hitachi machine start up and launch beneath shallow 4m cover through the fibreglass reinforced concrete of the launch-box tunnel-eye, when, just 10m into the operation, the labor dispute about muck-handling brought all work to a standstill.
- Since the dispute started the TBM has not been able to move while unions and the construction JV try to find a resolution to a problem which, reportedly, affects four workers per shift and whether the loading tasks in question should be carried out by longshore workers or building trades workers.
- Thirty-four days after breakout of the labor dispute that brought progress on the world-record tunnel drive in Seattle to a halt, TBM Bertha finally restarted Monday (23 September 2013).
- At 4.48 a.m. the 17.5m machine restarted for Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP), stopping after 3ft of progress to install ten giant concrete segments that make up each ring.
- "We are on our way," said STP project manager Chris Dixon, who added that the machine is expected to finally disappear from view early next week following more than two months of delays caused first by minor problems with the machine, and then, from August 20, by a row with the Longshoremen's Union over whether its members, or those of STP's construction union, should load muck onto barges at the wharf.
- It is still uncertain who will pay for the millions of dollars in lost tunnelling time that the row has caused, and although an agreement has been reached with the Longshoremen's Union for now, based on Governor Jay Inslee's attempts to find a longer term solution, there is no promise that picketing will not restart in future.
Dawn restart for trouble-hit drive 26 Sep 2013
- The dispute is raised by the longshoremen on the Seattle waterfront wharf who claim that all loading of vessels on the waterfront piers are their territory. The JV has engaged its own construction workers union to manage the barge-loading operations. The stalemate for the JV is that the longshore workers have denied the construction workers access to the wharf and if they agree to the longshore workers union demands, they will be faced with strike action by the construction workers union - which represents 250 tunnel workers employed by STP on the project.
Just 10m into her drive, TBM Bertha brought to a halt by labor dispute
- Seattle Tunnels Partners (STP) say a labor deal agreed in advance designates muck removal as part of the tunnel job, and should therefore be carried out by the building tradesmen it has hired. The longshoremen union disagrees, and points to a contract signed by STP with a longshore workers union registered employer back in April. STP project manager Chris Dixon says that agreement was signed "under duress", because at the time it was the only way to get the disassembled pieces of TBM Bertha off a barge and onto dry land.
- The row is creating friction at every level of the project. STP said on Tuesday (September 17) it will be seeking reimbursement from the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) for the millions of dollars cost by the delay; but Governor Jay Inslee has insisted that taxpayers will not be held liable and that STP has a contract to deliver the tunnel by the end of 2015.
- "We, six and a half million Washingtonians, are owed something by a business here. There is a private business that owes us the fulfillment of that contract. And we intend to be rigorous in insisting that that private business fulfill its end of the bargain, and that includes being able to have some labor relationship that does not end up with this kind of a slowdown," said Inslee.
- In the meantime negotiations are ongoing with the help of the National Labor Relations Board, but a ruling could be weeks away, and even then there is no certainty that the longshore workers union will quickly capitulate to a Federal level ruling.
- To complicate matters further STP has begun constructing an alternative muck removal facility that will allow transportation of excavated material away from the site by truck instead - although this week WSDOT ordered that work on that alternative facility should stop.
Inauguration of world record EPBM - TunnelCast, July 2013
Seattle prepares for mega-TBM assembly - TunnelTalk, May 2013
Mega-EPBM for Seattle tested in Japan - TunnelCast, January 2013
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