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PHILADELPHIA CITY CONTROLLER SAIDEL CALLS FOR INVESTIGATION OF ALLEGATIONS CONCERNING PGW'S EMERGENCY RESPONSE DURING WORK STOPPAGE

 PHILADELPHIA, Aug. 17 /PRNewswire/ -- Acting in his official capacities as city controller and as a member of the Gas Commission, Jonathan A. Saidel today requested that the National Transportation Safety Board conduct an immediate and complete investigation of the Philadelphia Gas Works (PGW) to determine if public safety is being threatened because inexperienced crews are responding to gas emergencies in place of the regular union work force.
 Following a walkout (lockout/strike) on Aug. 6 by 1,800 unionized PGW employees, the company has used some 650 non-union and management employees to maintain operations. This includes responding to emergency situations where citizens detect the smell of gas, or where leaks occur in portions of the more than 6,000 miles of gas lines throughout the city. Many of these gas lines date back to the 1890s and, therefore, require constant monitoring and efficient and properly trained personnel responding to the numerous leaks occurring every day.
 As well as contacting the National Transportation Safety Board, Saidel also sent a separate letter of concern to Alfred P. Degen, PGW's acting chief executive officer. In this letter, Saidel stated: "Although I have refrained from publicly commenting about the situation (lockout/strike), I have become increasingly concerned about the reports concerning safety problems." The controller referred to several media reports where allegations were made that management replacements lack the necessary experience and expertise to locate and patch potentially life-threatening gas leaks.
 Saidel asked Degen to provide him with the total number of customer calls regarding leaks and other emergencies received since the work stoppage, the time it currently takes management teams to respond, and the disposition of the problem in each case. Degen was also requested to supply a list of the crews responding, including their experience, background, recent training and certification and to contrast this against union crew experience, training and required certification.
 Additionally, the controller requested that the Gas Works Employees' Union provide him with a list of incidents and documentation to support its claims.
 "I will personally review this information and make it available to the National Transportation Safety Board for use in its investigation," stated Saidel. "I feel it is imperative that an experienced agency, independent of both management and labor, satisfy all of us that, in fact, the crews being sent out to handle gas emergencies are competent and that public safety is protected. The time to get an answer is now -- before a possible tragedy."
 /delval/
 -0- 8/17/93
 /Note to Editors: Copies of the controller's letters are available by calling 215-686-6678./
 /CONTACT: Tony Radwanski of the City Controller's Office, 215-686-6678, or evenings, 215-624-2244/


CO: Office of the City Controller; Philadelphia Gas Works; National
 Transportation Safety Board ST: Pennsylvania IN: UTI SU:


MJ-CC -- PH010 -- 3498 08/17/93 11:21 EDT
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Aug 17, 1993
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