A joint statement from Dominion Transmission and United Gas Workers Union Local 69 released Wednesday will end a week-old lockout at Dominion facilities in six states as of this Saturday. The lockout affected about a dozen union workers at Dominion’s E. M. Borger natural gas transmission station in Dryden.
While Dominion Transmission, Inc., Hope Gas, Inc., and UGWU Local 69 haven’t reached a final agreement on a new contract, the two sides say this week’s accord provides that the union “will not engage in any strike, slowdown, or work stoppage” between now and April 1, 2017, and the company promises “there will be no lockout of union-eligible employees” between now and April 1, 2017.
“This agreement will ensure our customers will not face the prospect of an unexpected walkout this winter until a new labor contract is reached,” says Frank Mack, a communications project manager at Dominion. The company had said the lockout was “to ensure customers’ continued safe and reliable service” over the winter, fearing that having no contract could lead to a union strike. Dominion insisted they informed union staff last week that “that they will not be able to work until a new labor contract is reached” because Local 69 “refused to take a tentative contract agreement to union members for a vote.”
Union members are slated to return to work for their regular shifts beginning at 6am this Saturday, September 17th, and won’t lose any pay due to the work stoppage. “The companies have agreed to provide pay for the bargaining-unit members for the time lost during the lockout,” Mack says. A statement from UGWU Local 69 adds that there will be “no break in our insurance” coverage.
The UGWU Local 69 executive board had approved a payout from a lockout fund to all affected union members, ensuring workers would have some income for family expenses despite the lockout. Even though Dominion is providing back pay, the union executive board has decided not to ask members to return the payments. “Due to record keeping and the costs it will be easier for each member to simply accept the money and cash their check,” a union statement says. “This money was distributed due to the added expense to members for picketing. Many members went above and beyond the call of duty and spent additional money of their own. We ask each member to keep and cash their checks as you have earned every penny.”
According to CBS News, UGWU Local 69 members had been working under the terms of an expired contract since April 1st of this year, as negotiations on a new contract broke down. New contract talks are “scheduled to resume by early October,” according to Mack.
Dominion Transmission and Dominion Hope, the affected businesses operating in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Maryland, New York, and Virginia, are subsidiaries of Dominion, which has nearly a trillion cubic feet of natural gas storage capacity, 12,200 miles of natural gas transmission lines, and more than five million customers in 14 states.
In the Ithaca area, Dominion’s pipeline through Dryden was built about fifty years ago. In addition to carrying natural gas through the area to other regions in the northeastern U.S., the company’s gas transmission lines serve New York State Electric & Gas (NYSEG) and Cornell University.