Authorities: Pipeline workers brawled after learning of layoffs

2013-12-10T12:15:00Z 2013-12-11T11:20:09Z Authorities: Pipeline workers brawled after learning of layoffsStan Maddux Times Correspondent
December 10, 2013 12:15 pm  • 

WESTVILLE | LaPorte County authorities said they acted quickly to diffuse brawling oil pipeline workers upset over being let go.

About 800 workers were attending a weekly safety meeting Monday in Westville at the temporary headquarters for Precision Pipeline, the company extending the Enbridge Energy Pipeline through Indiana and Michigan.

LaPorte County Deputy Troy Ryan was called to help handle a "large physical disturbance."

How many employees were fighting was not disclosed but there were "multiple" combatants, authorities said.

Ryan called for assistance and spotted a large group yelling at each other leaving the facility on U.S. 421. The situation calmed when the workers were told by officers to "calm down or face arrest."

With help from another deputy, the men were escorted back into the building to retrieve their final paychecks and led off of the property.

Police said no arrests were made at the request of company officials.

Precision Pipeline, of Eau Claire, Wis., is contracted to extend the pipeline through a 60-mile stretch of Northwest Indiana from Illinois into Michigan.

The pipeline is replacing a smaller, older line and will have transport more heavy crude out of Canada to serve refineries such as the one in Whiting.

Project manager Steven Grice said workers are being laid-off because the work in Indiana is nearing completion with stretches like the one north of LaPorte and in Griffith expected to be completely finished before February.

He said the work in Michigan should be wrapped up by the end of next year.

He would not say how many were let go Monday.

"Things are winding down. We don't need as many workers," Grice said.

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