- A federal appeals court will not force Tappan Zee Constructors (TZC) to use a more expensive class of union workers on its $4 billion Tappan Zee Bridge replacement project, the Journal News reported.
- The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America (UBC) had appealed the decision of an arbitrator who ruled TZC could use carpenters, who make $70.11 in wages and benefits, instead of dockbuilders, who make $92.47 — saving the company an estimated $7 million.
- The arbitrator originally ruled on the side of the UBC, which had negotiated what TZC called a "back-room deal" between the carpenter and dockbuilder unions to let the dockbuilders build the pile caps. However, the arbitrator later changed his ruling in favor of TZC.
The UBC, which represents approximately 500,000 workers, asked the appeals court to uphold the arbitrator’s first decision. However, the appeals court noted that the project labor agreement (PLA) allowed the arbitrator to reconsider decisions.
"We hold that... the arbitrator had the authority to determine that he could issue a second decision reaching a result directly contrary to the earlier award," the panel of judges wrote.
In his second ruling, arbitrator J.J. Pierson said his first decision was "not fully considered at the time" and "hasty" upon further review, the Journal News reported.
The TZC consortium has been looking to cut costs as much as possible, as it has a $3.1 billion design-build contract with the state Thruway Authority. With a lower final price tag for the project, TZC will be able to walk away with higher profits.
PLAs have been a source of controversy for decades. Opponents claim they hinder competition and raise costs, while unions and other proponents maintain they can ensure quality and reliability of labor.
Construction of the Tappan Zee Bridge, over the Hudson River, is halfway complete, and the first crossing is predicted to open in December 2016.