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PSEG, union start talks after workers reject contract extension

PSEG and union officials have scheduled a series

PSEG and union officials have scheduled a series of collective bargaining sessions for upcoming weeks and months, with the hope of reaching an agreement before a Nov. 13 contract expiration date. Photo Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

A union representing 1,500 PSEG Long Island workers this week began negotiations for a new three-year contract after members rejected the company’s offer to extend the existing contract with some givebacks in pension and medical benefits, union officials said Wednesday.

Rank-and-file members of local 1049 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in Hauppauge earlier this summer voted down the contract extension proposal, which would have continued with most elements of the existing contract intact, but with members paying some medical costs and new members switching to a less generous pension plan.

Union officials characterized their relationship with PSEG in the six years since it took over the Long Island Power Authority grid-management contract from National Grid as generally good, and the current contract talks as noncontentious.

“We’re not throwing rocks at PSEG,” said Patrick Guidice, assistant business manager for the local. “They treat our members well.”

At the same time, he said, “We’ve got good jobs for Long Islanders. We want to maintain that.”

The two sides have scheduled a series of collective bargaining sessions for upcoming weeks and months, with the hope of reaching an agreement before a Nov. 13 expiration date. Neither side is discussing the prospect of a strike.

LIPA, a state authority which owns the electric grid, has the ability to adjust rates annually to cover increased costs related to labor negotiations, something Guidice said he did not expect to be enacted for this contract. Any wage increases would be in line with cost of living increases.

PSEG said it was “committed to bargaining in good faith to reach an agreement before November 13." PSEG wants a contract that “controls costs and provides Long Island electric customers with a dedicated and reliable workforce, while delivering excellent service.”

Guidice said equally important was making sure members were able to maintain a standard of living.

Three years ago, he noted, unionized workers for National Grid’s workforce also represented by the union protested against Grid’s proposed contract offer which sought to alter the pension plan for new hires toward a 401(k)-type offering called a core contribution plan, efforts that ultimately led to reduced benefits.

Guidice said the union stands opposed to any such reductions.

“We want to make sure that future Long Islanders have good jobs to go to with a decent standard of living and retirement with dignity,” he said.

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