National Grid gas workers off the job after contract talks stall

Massachusetts

National Grid has locked out hundreds of its unionized natural gas workers in Massachusetts. 

More than 1,000 employees have been locked out of their contracts in dozens of Massachusetts communities — and it’s leaving workers, frustrated. 

The international power company and its unionized gas workers have failed to reach an agreement.

The National grid, which supplies New York, Rhode Island and Massachusetts with natural gas and electricity — announced Monday that nearly 1,100 employees in more than 85 cities and towns across the state have been locked out of a job. 

According to a statement from the gas workers — National Grid has been seeking to cut health benefits, change how overtime is allocated, and change retirement benefits. 

Union leaders say the company’s contract proposals “threaten public safety and drive down wages.”

But, National Grid argues –saying it would have been too dangerous to allow workers to stay on the job after the most recent contract expired at midnight Monday. 

National Grid send 22News a statement saying in part:

“Safe and reliable natural gas service will continue even though an agreement has not yet been reached.”

Officials there say, although they are disappointed no one could come to an agreement, they are committed to reaching a fair agreement soon. 

One woman told 22News —  its unfortunate it had to come to this. 

“I would hope they would get their jobs back, we all have a right to living and we all need jobs so we can pay our bills.”

National Grid has yet to announce a final agreement on new labor contracts.

Full joint statement from United Steel Workers Local 12003 President Joe Kirylo and USW Local 12012 President John Buonopane, whose two unions represent about 1,100 gas workers employed by National Grid in more than 85 Massachusetts cities and towns: 

“National Grid is jeopardizing the safety of our communities by locking out 1,100 of its most experienced employees who are critical to ensuring safe and quality gas work in Massachusetts. These workers not only protect and maintain key infrastructure, they repair dangerous gas leaks in dozens of cities and towns throughout the Commonwealth.

Rather than negotiate a fair contract that recognizes the crucial services these workers provide across Massachusetts, National Grid continues to push proposals that threaten public safety and drive down wages. The proposed cuts come as National Grid seeks tens of millions of dollars from Massachusetts consumers in its upcoming rate case, and as the company received a major tax cut from the Trump Administration.

Despite our request to allow members to work while we continue to bargain, National Grid has refused.

We’re grateful for the support of residents, elected officials, labor leaders and all those who are standing with us during this reckless and irresponsible National Grid lockout. We’ll continue to fight for a contract that protects quality, middle class jobs for current and future employees, and that ensures the safety of our communities.”

National Grid statement:

National Grid has deployed a workforce of management employees and outside contractors to staff its natural gas operations in Massachusetts after months-long negotiations between the company and United Steelworkers Local 12003 and 12012-04 failed to yield new contracts.

The existing agreements expired at 11:59 p.m. June 24. The company negotiated with the unions for five hours past the deadline, and activated its business contingency plan after the unions rejected all offers.

“Safe and reliable natural gas service will continue even though an agreement has not yet been reached,” said Marcy Reed, president of National Grid in Massachusetts. “We have a substantial, well-trained workforce that is qualified to safely and efficiently maintain our local gas system until this is resolved. “We have been bargaining in good faith for months, and we believe the benefits in our last proposal were robust,” said Reed. “We are disappointed that Locals 12003 and 12012-04 were unwilling to come to an agreement before the current contracts expired. We’re committed to reaching a fair agreement, in a reasonable timeframe, that balances the needs of both our employees and our customers.”

Without contractual “no strike” protections in place, the company cannot accept the risk of the union’s 1,250 employees working; it jeopardizes the safety of employees, customers, and the public.

A comprehensive work contingency plan is in place to enable continued operations. National Grid has skilled management employees from throughout the company’s service areas and contracted resources that have been assigned to handle all emergency calls and other essential tasks normally covered by the union workers.

The union work stoppage will continue until there is a final agreement on new labor contracts between the company and the unions that are ratified by union membership and fully executed by both parties. Employees who work in other regions of the company’s natural gas and electrical business operations remain largely unaffected by this work stoppage. National Grid is prepared to deploy additional personnel to effectively respond to any emergencies if needed.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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