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Utility, IBEW reach accord; National Grid deal equal to past pact.

Byline: Scott J. Croteau

WORCESTER - National Grid and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers have reached a tentative contract agreement that is equal to the deal the power company tentatively reached with the Utility Workers Union of America.

The tentative agreement between the utility and the electrical workers union came just about midnight Saturday, according to Edward W. Collins Jr., international representative for the IBEW. Health care, pension and pay increases are equal to the other union, he said.

Negotiations took place at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Worcester.

The four-year pact between National Grid and the roughly 575 workers represented by the IBEW calls for a 12 percent pay increase over the life of the contract. There will be an additional 2 percent wage-adjustment increase in the first year, making the first year's increase 5 percent, Mr. Collins said.

Officials from the union will meet with the company tomorrow. The union must also vote to ratify the contract. The details of the four-year contract will be released once it has been finalized and ratified by the union, the company said in a news release.

"We don't anticipate any problem with it being ratified," Mr. Collins said. "It's been a long negotiation and everyone on the committee worked hard. Things worked out very well. I think generally we are pleased with it."

National Grid reached a tentative agreement Friday evening with the UWUA, hours before the existing contract was going to expire at midnight. The UWUA represents about 1,300 National Grid employees.

The contract for the 575 employees represented by the IBEW also expired on Friday night. Mr. Collins said negotiations with his union went past Friday night because of sticking points such as working situations and the use of contractors.

"There are a lot of good things in the contract," he said. The union represents employees in the Merrimack Valley area, New Hampshire, the Fall River area, Western Massachusetts and Westboro. The union represents Local 326 in Worcester, Mr. Collins said.

"We are very pleased to have reached agreement with the IBEW on the terms of a new contract that included wage and staffing increases," Cheryl LaFleur, acting CEO National Grid's U.S. electricity distribution business, said in a news release. "Our customers also will benefit from this agreement because it enables National Grid and our union employees to continue to provide reliable service and do so safely and efficiently."

The IBEW had agreed to continue working under the terms of the then-current agreement when it expired Friday night. National Grid had a contingency plan in case of a strike. It is the state's largest electric utility, with 1.3 million customers in 169 communities.

The company serves close to 4 million customers across 29,000 square miles of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Rhode Island.
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:May 14, 2007
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