Dominion Transmission, Dominion Hope Take Action to Avoid Labor Uncertainty
BRIDGEPORT, W.Va., Sept. 7, 2016 — In an effort to ensure customers' continued safe and reliable service, Dominion Hope and Dominion Transmission Inc. (DTI) today informed about 915 union-represented employees in West Virginia, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland and Virginia that they will not be able to work until a new labor contract is reached.
The companies took the action after Local 69 of the Utility Workers Union of America, United Gas Workers refused to take a tentative contract agreement to union members for a vote. Local 69 previously had agreed to take the contract to a vote and support approval as part of a memorandum of agreement signed last month. To view a copy of the memorandum agreement signed by union leadership, visit dom.com/servingyou.
The previous labor contract expired on April 1.
“Our top priority is to safely and reliably meet the energy needs of our customers,” said Jeff Murphy, vice president & general manager for Dominion Hope, and Brian Sheppard, vice president–Pipeline Operations for Dominion Transmission. “Given the actions of the union leadership, we feel we have no other choice with the heating season approaching. The uncertainty of the labor situation could leave our customers literally out in the cold. We cannot let that happen, so our companies have had to make a very difficult decision. We are taking the steps necessary to ensure continued safe operations and reliable service.”
Murphy and Sheppard said the companies made a smooth transition overnight following the lockout at midnight. The companies have implemented continuance-of-service plans by augmenting supervisory and other non-union personnel with contractors and temporary workers trained to handle essential tasks.
They emphasized that emergency calls will be answered promptly, and the 24-hour monitoring of all systems will continue. As always, if a customer smells the odor of gas, please call Dominion Hope at 800-934-3187 or Dominion Transmission at 888-264-8240.
“We want our customers to know that we will do everything in our power to make this event as seamless as possible for them,” said Murphy and Sheppard. “Some customer appointments may be rescheduled or delayed, but there will be no interruption of service, and all safety and reliability work will continue as usual. In addition, meter reading will be suspended during this period, but customers can submit their own meter readings by visiting dom.com and looking under Customer Service for more information.”
The tentative agreement signed last month by union leadership includes: a nearly 11 percent base pay raise over four years and company-paid pension and retiree health benefits for all current employees. This tentative agreement also gives Medicare-eligible retirees a stipend to buy additional coverage that best suits their needs rather than be forced into the existing one-size-fits-all plan. Employees hired on or after January 1, 2017 would not be eligible for retiree medical benefits. Current employees will maintain traditional pension coverage, while new hires will get a cash balance pension plan and an enhanced 401(k) savings plan that protects them if they change employers. These same benefits already apply to non-union employees at DTI and Dominion Hope, and other Dominion affiliates, including more than 3,000 other unionized workers. Current Local 69 employees, whose base pay now averages $62,000 a year plus overtime, and new hires, will also receive a comprehensive benefits package that includes medical, dental and vision coverage and paid vacation of up to six weeks a year plus 12 paid holidays.
“In the end, this is a question of fairness,” said Murphy and Sheppard. “Our employees certainly deserve a fair contract, and our customers deserve a contract that maintains a prudent and competitive cost structure. A lockout is not our preferred choice, but we have exhausted all other options to provide our customers and communities with safe and reliable natural gas service they expect and deserve.
“We respect our union-represented employees, and we value the long and mutually beneficial collective-bargaining relationship we’ve had with Local 69,” said Murphy and Sheppard. “Most of all, we want to agree on a contract that is fair to all parties, including our customers. In the meantime, we will be working 24/7 to serve our customers as we always have.”
Dominion Hope and Dominion Transmission are subsidiaries of Dominion (NYSE: D), one of the nation’s largest producers and transporters of energy. Dominion has a portfolio of approximately 25,700 megawatts of generation, 12,200 miles of natural gas transmission, gathering and storage pipeline, and 6,500 miles of electric transmission lines. Dominion operates one of the nation’s largest natural gas storage systems with 933 billion cubic feet of storage capacity and serves more than 5 million utility and retail energy customers in 14 states. For more information about Dominion, visit the company's website at www.dom.com.