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Unionized National Grid workers avert a strike, for now

The workers maintain National Grid's natural gas distribution

The workers maintain National Grid's natural gas distribution system and power plants around Long Island. Credit: Newsday/Mark Harrington

National Grid and a union representing more than 1,100 of its gas and power-plant workers averted a threatened strike Sunday after more than 19 hours of intense weekend contract negotiations, though a final agreement on a new work pact could be weeks away, a union official said.

National Grid at 3 a.m. made a "best and final offer" to union leaders of Local 1049 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers after both sides agreed to extend the existing contract through the early morning talks, said Patrick Guidice, business manager for the union. Last week, the union’s membership voted to authorize a strike if an acceptable agreement wasn’t reached by the contract’s expiration of midnight Saturday.

National Grid spokeswoman Wendy Ladd, in a statement Sunday, said, "We worked in good faith with the union and feel we came to a tentative agreement that’s beneficial to our employees and our customers."

Now, Guidice said, the union will take National Grid’s offer to its membership to determine whether they will accept or reject it, opening the prospect of strike in late February or early March if they give the thumbs-down. The 1,150 workers operate and maintain National Grid’s natural gas distribution system and power plants around Long Island.

National Grid and the union agreed to extend the existing contract for the several weeks it will take until a new pact is ratified or rejected. The union will conduct informational meetings in coming weeks, Guidice said.

Sticking points included health care plan costs and retirement benefits, Newsday has reported, but the tentative pact does include a fair wage increase over the four years of the contract, Guidice said.

A federal mediator was called in to broker the talks last week, Guidice said.

Guidice said the union will leave to members the final decision on whether or not to accept the contract, adding that leadership is "going to stay neutral" in its meetings with members. Without providing details, he acknowledged members "will be facing higher costs for health care" if they accept the contract, while calling potential wage increases "generous."

National Grid in 2018 locked out 1,100 unionized gas workers at its Massachusetts utility during contentious contract negotiations, also involving health care and retirement benefit costs. The two sides ultimately came to an agreement six months later. National Grid workers on Long Island in 2015 also threatened to strike over some of the same issues, rallying at the company’s Hicksville offices to get a better contract. Another contract was reached in 2019.

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