Organizing/Contract Wins

CN Local 470-1 Inks Contracts with PSEG and Avangrid ; 470-1/Generation Contract

CN Local 470-1 Inks Contracts with PSEG and Avangrid

It’s been a productive period at Local 470-1, which represents members in electric generation and distribution in Connecticut. Two new contracts covering both groups protect jobs, raise wages, and preserve benefits.

Taking a moment to unwind after difficult, successful contract negotiations are, left to right: Local 470-1 Executive Vice President Tony Caffrey, President Kevin Cothran, New Haven Chief Steward Mike Keyes, Bridgeport Chief Steward Gino Lopez, Sergeant of Arms Tom Murray, and Recording and Financial Secretary Marc Lewandowski.

Negotiations on the distribution side of the local were with Avangrid, which is owned by the multinational Iberdrola. On the generation side, UWUA members faced off with NJ-based PSEG, which is building a new gas plant to replace the coal unit where members currently work.

470-1/Generation Contract

Knowing the company’s plans to open a new gas plant in 2021, the local decided to start negotiations almost a year before their contract expired. That way, issues that come with the closing of a coal plant and the opening of a gas facility could be addressed early.

The contract covers members in Bridgeport and New Haven, and members’ seniority rights are shared between the two facilities.

The Bridgeport plant, which now employs more than 40 members, will be replaced by a gas facility that will require only 13 people to operate.

“The main goal for us was to create protections for people in this transition,” explains Local 470-1/Generation President Kevin Cothran. “We stayed focused on the things we could control: to get the highest wages we could, protect all current members’ pay and seniority — for those that change plants now and potentially in the future.”

In order to negotiate a contract that both protects members during a decommission and in the staffing of a new plant, required negotiators to be “sharply focused, persistent and unwavering in our fight,” Cothran says.

The result: a four-year contract expiring in 2021 that members voted overwhelmingly to ratify. It includes respectable raises every year, an increase in premiums that had been frozen for six years, pension improvements, and protection of health benefits.

Most importantly, an agreement was reached on a generous Voluntary Separation Package that will result in no layoffs.

There were some lessons learned for UWUA members facing similar circumstances, Cothran says: “If necessary, propose a voluntary severance, it can serve both the members and the company. Do not fear layoffs. In our case, layoffs would remove the younger workers who the company would prefer to keep at the new plant. So they could not use that as a threat. The company would rather not invest the training time and money in older short-term workers. And the severance can be a significant bonus for older workers ready to get out.”

Local 470-1/Distribution Contract

UWUA Local 470-1 members on the distribution side recently ratified a new three-year agreement with Avangrid, the U.S. subsidiary of Iberdrola, a Spanish multinational that is one of the largest electricity companies in the world.

The contract, which covers 425 members of what was Connecticut’s United Illuminating Company, includes 3% wage increases every year, a no layoff clause for the duration of the contract, and no givebacks.

“This contract guarantees employment for everyone for three years, that’s big,” says Local 470-1/Distribution President Moses Rams. “Our pension and our medical remain the same and we won some other improvements. This agreement will keep us competitive with the region.”