The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers said Connecticut Light & Power’s recent decision to use contract workers for a majority of the repairs violates its collective bargaining agreement.
The contract workforce, which currently handles all work after 3 p.m. Monday through Friday and during all weekend hours, will actively preclude union electrical workers from handling the majority of the company’s repair calls.
According to Frank Cirillo, business manager of IBEW Local 420, the current contract breaches the terms of a 1.5 year agreement between the company and the union.
“The collective bargaining agreements have always given the company the right to have straight time 24/7 coverage 365 days a year. The new agreements also gave the company more flexibility with straight time on-call assignments,” Cirillo said. “Our agreements were negotiated with public and employee safety in mind and have served the State of Connecticut well for over 50 years. The new out of State executives just want to make change where no change is needed.”
Fellow business manager John Fernandes of IBEW Local 457 agreed, and continued to write off CL&P’s adoption of the external labor force as senseless.
“The cost of these contractors, many of which are from out-of-state, don’t have the proper training for this type of work and come at an expensive 3-4 times that of their own employees,” Fernandes said in the statement.
However, in response to the union’s outcry, CL&P and it’s parent company, Northeast Utilities, countered by saying that the current contract was ineffectual.
“It’s unfortunate that the union leadership continues to mislead the public and distort the truth regarding our efforts to have our workers scheduled when our customers need them most,” CL&P’s Spokesman Mitch Gross said in a statement. “As a utility in the 21st century, we are a 24/7 operation but the current contracts and work practices of our union do not allow the flexibility needed in the afternoon and overnight hours, when the majority of power outages occur.”
Gross went on to describe the contract workers as “fully trained and qualified” to handle the repair work.
The decision to employ a contract workforce followed 18 months of discussion between union and the company. Although CL&P originally cited the staffing of evening and weekend shifts with union employees as a leading goal, they admitted feeling like they had not options.
“We were left with no other choice but to hire IBEW union contractors . . .” Gross said. “This means customers have first responders immediately available when needed.”
The labor management dispute comes on the heels of the union’s struggle to negotiate a contract with CL&P.
“We value the important work our employees perform and hope we can eventually staff these shifts with our own union employees,” Gross said. “We look forward to continuing these discussions with union leaders at the bargaining table and not in the media.”