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Local Jobs in Question for Niantic River Bridge Project
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The Maine-based company awarded a $100 million contract to replace a massive rail bridge in Connecticut says most of the work will go to state residents.  Labor unions have objected strongly to the award, saying the deal should have gone to a company that agreed to use local union labor.  WNPR’s Harriet Jones reports.

The Niantic river bridge has been in need of replacement for decades, but Amtrak has never had the cash to complete the project. Last year it received more than $50 million in stimulus funding to get the replacement underway, and it has just announced that Maine-based Cianbro Corporation will be the prime contractor. Keith Brothers of the Laborers’ Union Local 547 in Groton says he believes Cianbro will bring workers in from out of state:

"The funding was through the Recovery Act, the spirit of the Recovery Act was to have local people and the local economy benefit from that. To tell people that have been out of work for close to a year or over a year, that those job opportunities that you would have had, isn’t going to be there – it’s disheartening."

The union had an understanding with a rival bidder, who had guaranteed to use union labor, but Cianbro’s Andy Vigue says although they have no exclusive union contract, his company already has close ties to the state:

"We do have a permanent region office that’s in Bloomfield Connecticut – it’s been there for over 15 years.  This project will be managed out of that Connecticut office.  The workforce that will be employed will be coming out of our projects that we have now in Connecticut, and are Connecticut residents for the most part.  So the money isn’t really leaving the state of Connecticut."

Vigue also says the company will pay what he called prevailing wage rates, and subcontractors will be free to use union labor. Congressman Joe Courtney, who’s been closely involved in talks on the project over the last year, issued a statement saying he’s disappointed by the award.  He called Amtrak’s decision unfortunate, because Cianbro is not fully committed to using locally sourced labor.

For WNPR, I'm Harriet Jones.