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NHEC strike now in 2nd week

New Hampshire Union Leader

May 14. 2018 8:10PM

More than 80 workers on Monday entered a second week in their strike against the New Hampshire Electric Co-op over a dispute regarding retirement issues.

“We don’t expect it to be over this week, and it may not be over next week,” said Dick Rogers, business manager for International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1837 in Dover.

The union filed an unfair labor practice last week with the National Labor Relations Board in Boston, Rogers said. He said the Plymouth-based company no longer wants to negotiate changes to pension and 401(k) that the union maintained is subject to mandatory bargaining.

NHEC said the company proposed retirement benefits at the same level as non-union employees, including senior management, according to a NHEC update issued Monday.

A federal mediator, brought in before the strike started May 7, is scheduled to meet with the company’s representatives Wednesday and may meet with the workers’ side, Rogers said.

NHEC said 83 employees were on strike.

“Although a federal mediator has been engaged and continues to meet with both sides, an agreement has not been reached and union workers remain out on strike,” the co-op statement said. “Contract line crews have been brought in to help maintain operations for NHEC and its members.”

A union solidarity fund is helping striking workers pay for medical coverage lost when they went on strike, according to Rogers.

“We have a bunch of linemen working out of state, so the guys have income coming in,” he said.

NHEC said a first-class line worker there earns an annual base salary of $81,057; plus an average of $6,547 for on-call pay. In 2017, line workers also averaged $30,000 in overtime. The company valued its benefits package at an average $54,676 a year, bringing total average compensation to about $172,280.

Strikers have set up picket lines in Plymouth, Andover, Raymond and Meredith.

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