Letter Follows Commitment from NiSource CEO to Encourage Subcontractors to Hire Locked-Out Workers
Washington, DC - United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) sent a letter to Marcy Reed, President of National Grid of Massachusetts, to urging her to ensure that the gas workers locked out by National Grid are available to help with the Merrimack Valley's recovery from the gas explosions on September 13, 2018. The letter follows a meeting between Senator Warren and Joe Hamrock, CEO of NiSource, the parent company of Columbia Gas, in which Mr. Hamrock pledged that he will encourage his subcontractors to consider hiring locked-out National Grid workers to assist with Merrimack Valley recovery efforts.
After a series of gas fires and explosions last month damaged or destroyed dozens of homes and left thousands of Massachusetts residents and businesses without gas service, Columbia Gas has started to replace 48 miles of pipelines that provide service to thousands of people in the Merrimack Valley region. While officials expect to complete all repairs and restore gas service to affected customers by November 19, 2018, the effort will require a large workforce of trained, certified skilled gas workers.
Since late June, approximately 1,250 skilled gas workers have been locked out from their jobs at National Grid due to a dispute over contract negotiations. Because these workers are well-trained and qualified for this work, Senators Warren and Markey wrote to Columbia Gas last month to request that the company ensure that these workers are hired by its contractors to help with the recovery. Columbia Gas has not done so, although it has sent over 1,000 workers from out of state to assist in the Merrimack Valley recovery efforts, while the locked-out National Grid workers remain idle, despite their expressions that they are willing to help.
In their letter, the Senators Warren and Markey expressed concern that the National Grid workers are not being employed in the highly labor-intensive effort to help the Merrimack Valley recover from the explosions. The senators also pointed out that that the locked-out National Grid workers are ideal for assisting in the effort, as they would require no new training and would be more cost-effective than bringing in workers from out of state.
"We write today to urge you to act in the interests of the Massachusetts communities affected by this tragedy and take any and all steps necessary to ensure the locked-out National Grid workers are involved in the Merrimack Valley recovery efforts, including by encouraging Columbia Gas and its contractors to hire them," the senators wrote.
The senators called on National Grid to ensure these workers are available to help with the Merrimack Valley's recovery, rather than sitting idle while their skill, training, and experience are desperately needed.