WSDOT Workforce Agreement for 520 Pontoon Project Benefits All Involved

A project agreement for the 520 Bridge pontoon project has been negotiated by labor unions and the joint venture firms that will be submitting bids to WSDOT. At the request of WSDOT and the project’s qualified bidders the agreement was facilitated by AGC.

Because of the size and uniqueness of this project Gov. Gregoire instructed WSDOT to consider a project labor agreement. Because of the long-standing working relationship between the two WSDOT asked AGC for advice. AGC urged direct employer-employee negotiations and offered to facilitate.

Bob Adams Vice President of Guy F. Atkinson Construction which is not among the bidding teams volunteered to serve as the employers’ lead negotiator.

“All parties worked hard and came to the table with an open mind as we approached this differently than other PLAs to the benefit of the project owner labor and contractors” Adams said. “AGC of Washington and its labor partners have been negotiating master labor agreements for decades. This experience shows that employers and employee representatives sitting down and negotiating directly is the best way to go.”

Adams said that the agreement meets the basic criteria sought by AGC:

  • Voluntarily negotiated between contractor and labor: The contractor along with its labor partners has the knowledge and expertise involving collective bargaining negotiations and who can best know how to tailor the project agreement to meet the special needs of a project. Public owners conversely have neither the historical knowledge of labor negotiations nor the expertise concerning the actual construction processes on a given project to adequately negotiate an efficient and proper agreement.
  • Project specific: Mega construction projects such as the SR 520 pontoon project are distinctive. Project agreements should be tailored to the specific conditions and needs of a given project. To do otherwise leads to inefficiency and conflict.
  • Negotiated prior to bid: It is most efficient for the project if contractors and labor negotiate mutually-acceptable terms and conditions to be used as the basis for bidding and performing work. The contractors will know the conditions under which the project will operate – critical information for bidding the project.

The contractors selected to submit proposals to WSDOT are joint ventures Kiewit/General Grays Harbor Constructors and Skanska/Manson/Mowat. All three have agreed to sign the agreement as have the local carpenters cement masons ironworkers laborers and operating engineers.

“This agreement specifically addresses the terms and conditions of those trades who will be hired by the contractor” Adams explained. “It will be offered to other trades as well.”

This project agreement fulfills WSDOT’s instruction to proposers that they provide a plan to recruit train and hire a qualified workforce for the duration of the project. WSDOT requires that this plan address:

  • An assessment and use of locally available skilled and craft labor
  • Plans to import skilled and craft labor from outside Grays Harbor County
  • Anticipated training programs to be utilized prior to and during construction
  • Use of Local Tribal members including outreach to local Indian nations informing them of employment needs and opportunities
  • Use or implementation of a project labor agreement
  • Strategy for avoiding work stoppages as the result of labor disputes.

Adams noted that one of the distinctive aspects of this agreement is that it is a full-fledged stand-alone collective bargaining agreement. “There have been other agreements in the region that simply reference myriad other agreements” he said. “This one does not do that. Thanks to the active participation of all parties and direct employer-employee negotiations we have a customized agreement that will expedite the completion of this vital infrastructure project.”