Update: IAWWTF Chief Operator CJ Kilgore said Tuesday morning that the iron workers had returned to work after solving staffing issues that had caused the work stoppage. Kilgore further clarified that he felt he misrepresented the workers' reason for not working Friday, which were tangentially related to COVID-19, but only because the union had struggled to find a satisfactory number of workers to safely conduct the necessary work. When too many said they would be absent on Friday, the site was stopped for the day; Kilgore said he misinterpreted the reason as mainly coronavirus-motivated and apologized to the workers.
Original story: Laborers from the Iron Workers Union have walked off the construction site at the Ithaca Area Wastewater Treatment Facility (IAWWTF), halting construction on a grit removal facility that is being built at the plant, citing unspecified concerns about working during the coronavirus outbreak. The facility itself is still operating.
IAWWTF Chief Operator CJ Kilgore said in an interview that he wasn't told about the work stoppage until he showed up to work Friday morning. He said the iron workers only make up four of the jobs on the site, but that without them the project is on hold. In total, there are between 15-20 people working on the project, which has been deemed essential and thus could continue during the public health crisis.
"I didn't know anything about it until I came in today and there was no work going on," Kilgore said. "The project superintendent said yesterday they notified him that they were walking off the job because of concerns over COVID, which effectively shut the entire job down, which put a whole lot of other people out of work. [...] Suddenly, our active work site is just dead."
Kilgore said he hasn't been informed about what would bring the iron workers back to work or what additional protections they are asking for. Requests for comment from the Iron Workers Local 60 in Syracuse and MA Bongiovanni, the general contractor on the project, have not been returned.
If the work stoppage continues, Kilgore said he's been told that Bongiovanni will bring in their own workers to cover the iron work, though that is not their specialty and it would likely slow the process down. The grit removal project work has been ongoing since April, after a years-long planning process. According to the Town of Dryden, which shares operation of the facility with the City of Ithaca and the Town of Ithaca, the grit removal modification project was slated to cost $7.1 million, though Kilgore added that costs could potentially rise if the union iron workers don't return.