PLYMOUTH — New Hampshire Electric Cooperative management and striking electrical workers have reached tentative agreement on a new contract, both sides announced Thursday.
Members of Local 1837 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers ratified the pact and the co-op’s Board of Directors was scheduled to meet Monday to also approve the 3½-year agreement, which covers 83 employees, including those who repair power lines and restore service after outages.
Representatives of the company and workers participated in federally mediated contract talks Wednesday.
The company withdrew a provision opposed by the union concerning 401(k) retirement benefits. The company had agreed to allow the union members to have the same benefits as non-union employees, but wanted the flexibility to make changes in the plan without negotiations.
The union said any such changes should be subject to negotiations.
The tentative contract “does not include the language that the union had objected to and provides for modest increases in pay, 401(k) and pension benefits,” the co-op said in a written announcement released Thursday morning.
“The company withdrew the language that we could not negotiate any changes in the retirement plan,” Dick Rogers, business manager of Local 1837, said.
Rogers expressed displeasure that the company board’s ratification vote would not take place until next week, meaning the striking workers would be unable to return to work until Tuesday. “We think they could have called a board meeting for today,” he said Thursday. “Our members are ready to go back to work tomorrow (today).”
But co-op spokesman Seth Wheeler said that because of the notice requirements for special board meetings and because some board members are unable to attend a meeting this week, the meeting had to be scheduled for Monday.
“Our union employees are skilled, dedicated professionals who serve our members well,” said co-op President/CEO Steve Camerino. “We’re hopeful that they will be back on the job soon.”
Until the co-op board ratifies the contract the utility will continue to use contract crews to to repair power lines and other equipment and perform any other work normally performed by Local 1837 members.
The tentative contract will replace the a 5½-year contract that expired on April 30. Workers have been on strike since May 7.
Under the current contract, a first-class line worker makes an annual base salary of $81,057; plus an average of $6,547 for on-call pay for a total of approximately $87,604 annually. In addition, line workers earned $30,000 in overtime on average last year. In addition to their wages, line workers receive a benefits package, which on average costs the co-op $54,676 to provide, the utility said.