There are new developments Friday morning in the ongoing lockout of Dominion gas employees here in Twin Tiers.
On Thursday, The United Gas Workers Union Local 69 issued the following statement on its Facebook page concerning ongoing contract negotiations with the company and a federal mediator.
“The Union and the Company met today for session of bargaining with a Federal Mediator, The Union made a proposal to the Company which they rejected. The Mediator held extensive discussions with both sides but no agreement was reached and members will continue to be locked out until further notice. Both parties agreed that neither side walked away from the table and the possibility of further negotiations exists and communication lines are open going forth. Members are encouraged to contact their Stewards for further details as conference calls were held this afternoon with each of them,” United Gas Workers Union Local 69.
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Benefits and pension plans reside at the forefront of these discussions.
“The issues on the table that are preventing us from coming to an agreement are the elimination of retiree medical insurance for newly hired members, and the elimination of a pension for newly hired members that would be replaced with a cash balance fund, which would represent a decrease of income of forty percent,” said Union 69 Steward, Dan Rice.
Many members of Union 69 serve as “field men,” fixing pipeline corrosion, setting up wells and performing general maintenance on all transmission lines.
During their absence from work, Dominion has searched for temporary replacements to ensure that they meet consumer demands. However, the pipelines on their property contain sensitive and pressurized natural gas. This gas could potentially be dangerous for Dominion and the surrounding area if improperly handled.
“We are a very highly skilled, highly trained, qualified workforce,” said Rice. “Temporary workers would come in, they don’t have the trainings that we have, they’re not OSHA qualified. It would just be dangerous because they don’t do the work every day and they don’t know the things that could happen.
Union 69’s President, Craig Bradford, is expected to meet with Dominion’s board of directors for another session of negotiations tomorrow afternoon.
“In a perfect world, the company would helpfully come to an agreement with us,” said Rice. “There is going to be a federal mediator there as well and the lockout would end tomorrow. That would be a perfect scenario for us and we would be back to work on Friday.”
We at 18 News will continue to keep you updated as this story progresses.