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Dominion Union Employees Locked Out

By Staff | Sep 7, 2016

Pictured are Dominion employees in Wetzel County who have been affected by a lock out. (Photo provided)

More than 900 Dominion Hope and Dominion Transmission employees are locked out of work this morning by the company as contract negotiations between the union and company have failed. This includes dozens of employees at Dominion’s locations at Galmish and Hastings (Wetzel County) and Ben’s Run (Tyler County).

A release issued by the company states that it took action after Local 69 of the Utility Workers Union of America, United Gas Workers “refused to take a tentative contract agreement to union members for a vote.

The company claims that the union had agreed to take the contract to a vote and support approval.

“Our top priority is to safely and reliably meet the energy needs of our customers,” said Jeff Murphy, vice president & general manager for Dominion Hope, and Brian Sheppard, vice presidentPipeline Operations for Dominion Transmission. “Given the actions of the union leadership, we feel we have no other choice with the heating season approaching. The uncertainty of the labor situation could leave our customers literally out in the cold. We cannot let that happen, so our companies have had to make a very difficult decision. We are taking the steps necessary to ensure continued safe operations and reliable service.”

The statement from Murphy and Dominion said that the agreement included an 11 percent base pay raise over four years, company-paid pension and retiree health benefits for all current employees.

Photo by Bruce Crawford

The company said Medicare-eligible retirees would be given a stipend to buy additional coverage, and employees hired on or after January 1, 2017 would not be eligible for retiree medical benefits.

Current employees would maintain traditional pension coverage while new hires would get a “cash balance pension plan and an enhanced 401(k) savings plan that protects them if they change employers.”

The statement said these benefits apply to non-union employees at DTI and Dominion Hope, and other Dominion affiliates, including more than 3,000 other unionized workers.”

“Current Local 69 employees, whose base pay now averages $62,000 a year plus overtime, and new hires, will also receive a comprehensive benefits package that includes medical, dental and vision coverage and paid vacation of up to six weeks a year plus 12 paid holidays.”

The Wetzel Chronicle talked to Dominion employees picketing outside the Hastings plant. Individual employees declined to give a comment, but collectively the employees said they were not giving up and were wanting to protect the retirees and new hires.

Photo by Bruce Crawford

In a news release to media, President Craig Bradford of United Gas Workers Union Local 69 said that at 12:01 a.m., Sept. 7, the company notified the union that it was implementing a lock-out.

“The Union considers this lockout a clear violation of the National Labor Law Act and have responded with several labor charges being filed. Picketing is scheduled throughout the six state area.”

The release noted that the union had presented the company with an offer “to not strike while negotiations were ongoing in return not to be locked out but the Company never responded and ultimately locked the membership out.”

The release said that all union members were willing to return to work “but are being refused entry into the facilities; this is not a strike.”

A posting on the United Gas Workers Union Local 69 Facebook page included remarks from the union’s president. The statement noted that “all day yesterday the union’s executive board worked diligently to avoid this work stoppage, including providing the company the offer to agree not to strike if they would not lock out while we continue to negotiate.”

Photo by Bruce Crawford

The post noted that the company “responded to the offer by locking us out.”

The statement from the union president said that the union is scheduled to meet with the company on Thursday, Sept. 8 at noon and that a federal mediator has agreed to attend the meeting.

“Many members are asking what we do now? Today we ask members to contact their steward, director, and/or officer for details and direction for picket duty as outlined on the picket schedule.”

The statement asks union members to continue to support each other and the union.

“I want to assure everyone that the leadership/executive board will do everything possible to get our membership back to work and negotiate a fair contract. Members communications are essential going forth; stay in contact with your steward and continually check Facebook and our webpage for updates as we are committed to providing information as it becomes available. Stay strong and stand together…”

According to the statement from Dominion, emergency calls from customers regarding their service will be answered promptly, and the 24-hour monitoring of all systems will continue.

“As always, if a customer smells the odor of gas, please call Dominion Hope at 800-934-3187 or Dominion Transmission at 888-264-8240.”

“We want our customers to know that we will do everything in our power to make this event as seamless as possible for them,” said Murphy and Sheppard. “Some customer appointments may be rescheduled or delayed, but there will be no interruption of service, and all safety and reliability work will continue as usual. In addition, meter reading will be suspended during this period, but customers can submit their own meter readings by visiting dom.com and looking under Customer Service for more information.”

The Wetzel Chronicle is following this story and will add more as we talk to both sides.