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National Grid workers ratify union contract

National Grid workers, seen here at work in

National Grid workers, seen here at work in Ronkonkoma last year, maintain the utility's natural gas distribution system and power plants around Long Island. Credit: James Carbone

National Grid’s unionized workforce voted overwhelmingly to approve a recent contract proposal, averting the prospect of a strike of the Island’s natural gas distribution and power plant operations.

A four-year contract that guarantees the 1,150 workers annual increases of 3% was passed Friday by 93% of the workers, who are represented by Local 1049 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Unionized workers had been operating under an extension of their prior contract until ratification, and had earlier voted to authorize a strike if an agreement wasn’t reached by a mid-February deadline. Ratification ends that prospect.

Around 69% of workers participated in the mail-in ballot vote, said Patrick Guidice, the union’s business manager, who called it the largest turnout for a contract vote. "It signified the rank and file were energized, and an overwhelming majority were satisfied with the agreement," he said.

The contract includes a continuation of the company’s existing medical plan, but with more employee contribution toward the cost. Guidice declined to be more specific but said members "believe it’s a fair share."

Pension-plan contribution will stay the same, he said, and there are job protections against layoffs.

In a statement, National Grid said it was "pleased" the union ratified the contract, which "delivers job security, fair wage increases, maintains retirement and medical benefits, and provides for operational enhancements. We value our partnership and look forward to continuing our productive working relationship with our union employees."

National Grid operates the gas distribution network on Long Island, where it has some 600,000 customers, and owns three large power plants, in Northport, Port Jefferson and Island Park, as well as smaller peak-power plants, under contract to LIPA. National Grid previously operated the electric grid until PSEG won the bid to operate it in 2014.

The company, after weeks of negotiations with the union that involved a federal mediator, made a "best and final offer" to union leaders in mid February. At the time the company said it "worked in good faith with the union and feel we came to a tentative agreement that’s beneficial to our employees and our customers."

National Grid in 2018 locked out unionized gas workers in Massachusetts during contentious contract negotiations, but ultimately settled on new terms. In 2015, the Long Island-based union also threatened a strike but averted a walkout.

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