MADISON, W.Va. — Due to a reported impasse in contract negotiations, union workers at Dominion Gas reportedly fear the company will lock its doors to current employees.
The United Gas Worker’s Union Local 69 reportedly represents around 915 workers in six states.
The lockout could effect several workers at the Madison office of Dominion Hope Gas.
The union’s regional director, Willard Swiger, explained workers are not prepared to strike because they fear improper management of the safety-sensitive business.
“We feel that we provide a safe and reliable product to the consumer. We have highly trained employees…Our fear is they replace us with replacement workers and they may not have time to adequately train them,” Swiger noted.
The sticking point in negotiations surround retirement benefits for new hires.
New employees at Dominion Hope Gas would reportedly no longer have access to retiree healthcare benefits and pensions would be replaced with another system.
Bob Fulton, who works in media relations at the parent company of Dominion Hope Gas, explained the company has tried to come to the negotiation table looking decades down the road at healthcare costs.
“It’s hard to say what health care is going to look like, not only then, but in the next couple of years. Let me make it clear…This is only for new hires — current employees maintain their health benefits.”
Fulton also explained enhanced retirement benefits and extended vacation time for current employees were offered in negotiations.
When asked if a lockout was imminent Fulton responded, “We are looking at every contingency plan, and we have plans in place that make sure we can continue to provide natural gas to our customers.”
Owen Wells is a reporter for Civitas Media. He can be reached at 304-752-6950 ext. 1729 or by email at [email protected]