PSEG Long Island expects to restore any remaining outages from this week’s wind and rain storms by midnight Friday as new crews arrive to help and unionized PSEG workers approved a new four-year contract, an official said.
Daniel Eichhorn, president and chief operating officer of PSEG Long Island, said high winds continued to buffet the island as of midday Thursday and could cause additional outages into Thursday night. Crews have been working since Wednesday and overnight to restore outages, and will continue until all power is restored, he said. “We’re doing our best to make sure everybody’s back by midnight tomorrow,” he said.
Eichhorn said the outages were evenly spread throughout the Island, but some lingering impact could be felt out east.
All but around 9,000 customers had their power restored by midday, with more than 65,000 restored, he said. Crews from outside utilities will arrive to help speed the work today. The PSEG Long Island outage number decreased steadily during the day Thursday with about 3,000 remaining as of 8:30 p.m.
PSEG also has the help of a force of around 200 temporary workers who are hardening the system under a $730 million Federal Emergency Management Agency contract — workers that have upgraded some more than 900 miles of electric circuits since the work began three years ago.
PSEG, Eichhorn said, is working on a plan to continue some of those upgrades beyond the federal contract, which should end by next summer, keeping some line workers here for LIPA-funded hardening and planned upgrades such as a new Montauk substation and western Nassau transmission work next year.
Meanwhile, PSEG and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1049, which covers just over 1,500 PSEG unionized workers, finalized an agreement earlier this week for a new four-year contract that includes wage increases, slight modifications to workers’ medical plans and a continued pension plan. PSEG had earlier this summer sought greater concessions for new workers on medical and pension benefits, but in the end both sides came to a resolution without major changes.
The contract provides workers with a $1,000 signing bonus and a 2.5 percent pay increase in the first year, and 3 percent increases in the next three years, officials said.
The contract “provides my membership with job security and fair wage increases, while maintaining our pension and medical benefits,” said Ron Bauer, business manager for the union. Around 80 percent of the membership were in favor of the contract, which was ratified by members this week, and Bauer noted turnout for the vote was high.
Bauer called it a “very reasonable and fair contract for both sides without any major concessions.” PSEG had previously wanted “big changes in medical and pension benefits for new employees. Our members weren’t willing to give that up,” Bauer said.
Unionized PSEG staff “work extraordinarily hard,” he said, including 16-hour shifts in storms when needed.
The contract cost, which PSEG had previously budgeted for, won’t require a new rate increase, Eichhorn said. PSEG and LIPA are preparing a new rate filing in January of 2021 that would take effect in 2022.
Eichhorn called PSEG a “union-friendly company” that “likes working with the unions, we value the unions."
“We want to be cost effective but we also recognize our employees are our bread and butter,” he said. “We’re very happy with the agreement.”