Workers Raise Concerns over National Grid Proposals that Could Impact Public Safety in Massachusetts

United Steelworkers Local 12003 raises concerns about increase in contract workers, elimination of key layoff clause and wage and healthcare cuts that will hurt workers and could impact worker and public safety

Dec 07, 2015, 13:26 ET from United Steelworkers Local 12003

BOSTON, Dec. 7, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Boston Gas Local 12003 USW, which represents hundreds of workers employed by National Grid, raised concerns today about a number of damaging National Grid proposals that could hurt local employees and negatively impact public safety.

For years, Massachusetts has relied on experienced union employees to take emergency calls, repair dangerous gas leaks, manage customer service issues and protect and maintain key infrastructure, but National Grid officials have proposed hiring contractors to step in and fill many of these vital jobs currently performed by experienced employees.

USW Local 12003, which is currently engaged in contract negotiations with National Grid, is working to prevent these harmful measures from moving forward.

"It's critically important that experienced workers perform these vital services, yet National Grid wants to outsource this work to contractors who may lack the necessary expertise and experience," said Joe Kirylo, president of USW Local 12003, which represents about 795 National Grid employees in more than 35 Massachusetts cities and towns.

For example, National Grid has proposed to use contractors to perform all critical mark out work, including mark out work that is currently performed by highly skilled and experienced union employees.  These union gas workers ensure that National Grid's gas mains and services in Boston, Braintree, Brookline and other communities are protected from inadvertent damage that could result in leaks, ignition or explosions.

National Grid has already replaced many experienced union employees with contractors, a move that has in some instances led to poor site work and created added safety concerns. The company now wants to shift even more responsibility onto contractors, who may not have the same training, skills and experience as the employees they would be replacing.

"The state legislature and the Administration have made addressing gas leaks a priority, and these National Grid proposals represent a major step in the wrong direction," added Kirylo.  "If we want to ensure the greatest level of safety in our communities, experienced workers should be performing this vital work – not contractors who often don't have the same level of expertise or commitment to the Company, customers and the public."

National Grid is also pushing significant healthcare, benefit, wage and overtime cuts that will harm union employees and the local communities in which they live and work. At a time when many companies, cities and towns are making efforts to lift low wage workers out of poverty and establish a living wage of at least $15 an hour, the United Kingdom-based company is seeking to move in the opposite direction and cut starting wages for new call center employees from $15.50 to $14.10 an hour. 

And the company wants to eliminate a key layoff clause that protects workers and ensures that adequate staffing levels are available to serve Massachusetts communities.

"It's unconscionable that National Grid is pushing drastic cuts on workers at a time when it's hiking electric rates for Massachusetts ratepayers and generating massive profits," added Kirylo. "Massachusetts communities deserve safe and reliable service, particularly as we approach these winter months. We hope National Grid will act responsibly and put a halt to these cuts that place our workers and our communities at risk."

SOURCE United Steelworkers Local 12003