A strike by Teamsters Union members working in the gas and oil pipeline construction industry has ended, though some issues remain unresolved.

During the strike, which began the during the first week of January, Teamsters Union members picketed against pipeline contractors in Troy and North Towanda Township.

Teamster workers across the country in the pipeline construction industry returned to work Friday following an agreement between the union and the Pipe Line Contractors Association (PLCA) to extend the previous labor agreement for three months, according to a press release posted by the Teamsters Union on its national website.

This will mark the third time the National Pipe Line Agreement, which expired on Jan. 31, 2011, between the Teamsters and the PLCA has been extended. The full term of the extension will run from Nov. 15-April 13, 2012.

The terms of the extension include protecting all Teamster work on all current and future pipeline projects. The union, in turn, has agreed to suspend all strike activity at job sites. The two sides will return to active bargaining on predetermined dates over the next three months.

"I am glad we are able to get our members back to doing what they do best - working on our nation's pipeline construction projects," said Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa. "Our negotiating team is prepared to sit down as soon as possible with the PLCA and hammer out an agreement that will continue to protect our members' retirement security."

Charles P. Joyce, a member of the PLCA's national negotiating team, said that extending the labor agreement creates "a 90-day period where we'll negotiate a new location for pension contributions" made by pipeline construction companies for their Teamster employees.

The PLCA is proposing to place the pension contributions into either a new pension fund for Teamsters Union members who work in the pipeline construction industry, which would provide them with a defined benefit plan, or else into a Teamsters Union 401(K) plan, Joyce said.

"Either (option) is acceptable to us," said Joyce, who is president of Otis Eastern Service Inc., a pipeline contractor that is a member of the PLCA.

According to a Jan. 9 press release from the PLCA, the Teamsters want the PLCA's pension contributions placed in the Minnesota Teamsters Construction Division Pension Fund, which the PLCA said would put the Teamster employees' retirement benefits at risk, due to the problematic financial condition of the fund.

James Loewenstein can be reached at (570) 265-1633; or email: jloewenstein@thedailyreview.com.