NStar, union reach tentative
deal By NANCY COOK, Standard-Times staff writer
DAVID W. OLIVEIRA/Standard-Times special
Bruce Gadbois, left, and David Emond protest yesterday in front of NStar
in New Bedford. The company and its union reportedly came to a tentative
contract deal yesterday.
BEDFORD -- NStar, the gas and utility company, and its union of roughly 1,900
employees reached a tentative four-year contract deal early yesterday morning
following a two-week strike.
NStar nor union officials would disclose the new contract's details -- although
the union's bargaining committee unanimously supported it.
written statement, NStar said the new contract would give the company "added
flexibility" with employees' schedules and would include the hiring of
union members approve the agreement when they're expected to meet tomorrow, they
could resume work by Thursday, said union member Phil Trombly.
spokeswoman Caroline Allen said the company was looking forward to the workers'
1,900 engineers, linemen and other employees represented by the Utility Workers
Union of America Local 369 -- nearly two-thirds of NStar's work force -- began
striking May 16 after a five-year contract expired and talks on a new agreement
ended without resolution.
Specifically, NStar and the union argued over retirees' vision and dental
benefits, pension cuts for new employees and forced overtime.
the new contract is signed, NStar employees plan to continue their strike.
10 union members sat outside the NStar entrances off MacArthur Drive yesterday.
Wearing fleece jackets and rain slickers, they wondered aloud what the tentative
contract meant for their future.
Fifty-four-year-old Dave Emond said he was most concerned about his pension
benefits, since he's eligible for retirement in one year. "It becomes important
at my age," he said as he walked up and down Route 18 wearing a protest sign.
employees said they would approve the new contract only if it keeps their
medical benefits intact. Grace Pereira of Dartmouth, who has worked for NStar
for 29 years, said she needs medical benefits to support herself and her
you give up benefits, it's like a cancer," said Glenn LeCasse, a substation
electrician. "Fighting for benefits is why I've been sitting out here."
Gadvois, who works as a fleet mechanic, said he'd like the new contract to
address the issue of forced overtime, which "disrupts your personal life," he
said. "They just think they own you."
the union members knew what the new contract would bring. Between reading
paperback books, drinking coffee and waving to passing cars, the union members
discussed the uncertainty the strike has inflicted on their lives.
morning, Mr. LeCasse said he dials the union's hot line to learn the latest
details. "I wake up at 5 a.m.," he said. "Usually, there's nothing new to