National Fuel Gas Union Votes to Authorize Strike in Northwest Pa.
Members of IBEW Local 2154 were recently presented with a “final offer” from the company and “voted overwhelmingly” to reject the proposed contract, according to a press release issued on Thursday afternoon by IBEW Local 2154 business manager Heather Owczarzak.
Owczarzak said minimal concessions were made by the company during negotiations.
“National Fuel Gas has made a unilateral decision to impose terms of the contract that members of IBEW 2154 overwhelmingly rejected,” said Owczarzak. “Charges have been filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).”
The two sides most recently agreed to a labor contract in 2019 and that contract expired on April 13, 2022.
Representatives for IBEW Local 2154 and National Fuel Gas have been engaged in negotiations for a new contract since January.
Compensation and terms of employment continue to be the sticking points in negotiations.
According to IBEW Local 2154, employees of National Fuel Gas in northwest Pennsylvania and southwest New York are paid a lower wage than the company’s employees in neighboring regions.
“Under the terms National Fuel Gas has recently decided to impose; wages for most employees in the regions of Northwest Pennsylvania and Southwest New York State will be approximately twenty percent lower than the wages National Fuel Gas pays to workers in neighboring regions,” the release states. “Employees of the same company, with the same job titles, performing the same work, will be paid twenty percent less than their peers who are located less than one hour away.”
The release continues: “The terms National Fuel Gas is imposing on its employees in Northwest Pennsylvania and Southwest New York State eliminates the due process, union representation, and need to present just cause, which employees in neighboring regions are given in disciplinary matters.
“Pennsylvania contract employees are not accepting being treated as second class employees any longer.”
“If National Fuel Gas puts these workers in a position where they must strike, a skeleton crew of mostly inexperienced workers, who are unfamiliar with the operation of the region, will be put in place to conduct this vital work,” according to the release. “Prior to the strike authorization vote, National Fuel Gas offered a lesser ‘modified final offer.'”
Owczarzak said IBEW Local 2154 is preparing to move forward and is continuing with the NLRB charges against National Fuel Gas.
Carly Manino, Director of Corporate Communications for National Fuel, issued the following statement late Thursday afternoon confirming that the company and the IBEW Local 2154 are at a stalemate.
“On April 8, 2022, the Pennsylvania IBEW Local 2154P/PS voted not to ratify National Fuel’s best and final contract offer,” said Manino in the statement. “The company continues to meet with the union and has not come to an agreement, and thus are at (an) impasse.”
“The previous contract expired as of midnight April 12, 2022, and accordingly, following a number of negotiating sessions preceding that date, the company has implemented its best and final offer, which includes benefits and wage increases effective April 10, 2022.”
“National Fuel values its workforce and its objective is to provide a fair and equitable contract with competitive wages and benefits to all our employees.”
Manino said the company has bargained and will continue to bargain in “good faith with union leadership and has engaged in no activities, and will continue to engage in no activities, that interfere with the employees’ rights under the National Labor Relations Act.”
Manino emphasized that a strike vote does not automatically signal that a strike will occur but permits a union to call for a strike.
“A strike authorization vote is a practice used by a union as part of the negotiation process,” said Manino in the statement.
Manino also noted that National Fuel is well-prepared to continue providing “safe and reliable service,” including responding to emergencies and service calls if a work stoppage occurs.
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