Electricians: LIPA rejected our offer to help

A National Grid lineman goes skyward in a A National Grid lineman goes skyward in a bucket as he worked on pole replacement along Brookville Road in Brookville in the wake of superstorm Sandy. (Nov. 9, 2012) Photo Credit: Craig Ruttle

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Local electricians claimed Thursday that the Long Island Power Authority's contractor rejected their offer to aid restoration efforts after superstorm Sandy.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 25, said that 386 of its members -- all unemployed, licensed electricians -- asked to help LIPA's service contractor, National Grid, repair utility poles and power lines, but were told they were not qualified.

The union said that while its members are not high-voltage linemen, they're skilled in working with the secondary wires that directly connect homes.

"We could have assisted with just about anything: pulling wires, helping them dig the holes for poles . . . all of that," said Kevin Casey, a Local 25 representative. "I don't think they wanted local services."

LIPA referred calls to National Grid. A spokesman said Local 25 electricians had been hired, though not as linemen.

"On behalf of LIPA, National Grid used more local non-high-voltage electricians for this storm than in any previous storm and we are grateful for their skilled support, including connecting generators and working field surveys in flooded areas," said National Grid spokesman Alberto Bianchetti.

Several Suffolk County legislators joined IBEW leaders at a news conference about the issue Thursday.

Presiding Officer William Lindsay (D-Holbrook), a former Local 25 leader, said LIPA had also rejected IBEW electricians after Tropical Storm Irene last year.

"They said they didn't have the training, which I disagreed with emphatically," Lindsay said. "These people do all the area's street-lighting and signal work. Who better to help?"

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