EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

October 3, 2012

NH Electric Co-op workers consider strike

PLYMOUTH (AP) — The union representing New Hampshire Electric Cooperative lineworkers says it is considering a strike.

Both sides have held 17 bargaining sessions since mid-April and have been unable to produce an agreement. A five-year contract expired Sunday.

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Assistant Business Manager Tom Ryan said the union and the co-op were asked by a federal mediator to extend the contract until Friday with the hope a new agreement can be brokered. Negotiators are scheduled to meet again tomorrow.

IBEW Local 1837 represents 90 employees at NHEC, including district representatives; foremen; operations coordinators; line-design technicians; auto mechanics; system electricians; meter technicians; and warehouse workers.

Ryan said proposed cuts in retirement benefits of IBEW workers is what started the dispute.

In a statement Monday, NHEC President Fred Anderson said outstanding issues between the parties were matters of compensation, specifically wages and pensions.

Anderson said pension costs for the NHEC’s unionized workforce have increased by 71 percent since the last contract negotiations in 2007. He called that rate of increase “unsustainable.” He said it is not fair to the other 100 non-union Co-op employees who saw significant reductions in their pension plan in 2009.

Ryan says proposed pension cuts are at odds with the company’s financial state.

NHEC is a member-owned, non-profit electric distribution cooperative serving 83,000 members in 115 New Hampshire communities.

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