Baker ‘frus­trated’ with Na­tional Grid lock­out

Boston Herald - - BIZ SMART - By MARY MARKOS

Gov. Char­lie Baker said he is “as frus­trated about the lack of progress as any­body” over ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween locked out work­ers and Na­tional Grid, and that pro­posed leg­is­la­tion that would make the util­ity re­spon­si­ble for their ben­e­fits “de­serves to be dis­cussed.”

The House ap­proved a bill that would have the state set up ben­e­fits for any util­ity em­ploy­ees locked out dur­ing a la­bor dis­pute, pass­ing it along to the Se­nate yes­ter­day, as locked out work­ers ap­proach the loss of un­em­ploy­ment ben­e­fits next month.

All pro­gram costs would be as­sessed on the em­ployer that has locked out its em­ploy­ees, ac­cord­ing to the leg­is­la­tion, and the bill prevents a util­ity from pass­ing on those costs to ratepay­ers.

“The devil in the de­tails re­ally mat­ters on this stuff with re­spect to how it gets struc­tured and or­ga­nized,” Baker said. “Part of the rea­son we put the mora­to­rium in place after the Woburn in­ci­dent, in­ter­est­ingly enough, was be­cause of con­cerns we had that Grid did not have them an­power in place or the skill set in place to con­tinue to do the broad kind of work that would typ­i­cally be ex­pected to be done by a com­pany like that.

“We are also con­cerned about what all this means for the peo­ple who are locked out with re­spect to their fam­i­lies and I think the leg­is­la­ture try­ing to come up with some kind of an ap­proach to deal with this is a per­fectly ap­pro­pri­ate role for them to pur­sue ,” Baker said.

John Buonopane and Joe Kirylo, pres­i­dents of USW Lo­cal 12012 and 12003, said they are “grate­ful” for Speaker Robert A. DeLeo’s lead­er­ship and the House’s ef­forts to hold Na­tional Grid ac­count­able for its “reck­less” de­ci­sion to lock out 1,250 of its most ex­pe­ri­enced em­ploy­ees.

“The cru­cial piece of leg­is­la­tion ad­vanced in the House to­day of­fers much needed pro­tec­tions for our work­ers and safe­guards a crit­i­cal eco­nomic life­line – par­tic­u­larly as Na­tional Grid con­tin­ues to use mem­bers’ pay­checks and their fam­i­lies health in­sur­ance as bar­gain­ing tools dur­ing these ne­go­ti­a­tions,” the state­ment said. “Na­tional Grid has ut­terly failed to live up to its obli­ga­tions as a pub­lic util­ity dur­ing this lock­out, and its lack of ur­gency is wreak­ing havoc on res­i­dents, busi­nesses and com­mu­ni­ties across Mas­sachusetts.”

MARYSCHWALM/ BOS­TON HER­ALD FILE

VOIC­ING CON­CERN: Gov. Char­lie Baker, left, is voic­ing his frus­tra­tion with the on­go­ing Na­tional Grid lock­out.

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