A Year In Review

Tuesday, January 15, 2019
Message from Business Manager Kenn Bradley
 
2018 was a very busy year for our local and although we had a few negative outcomes, we believe overall it was great year with many positive results. As good as 2018 was, we are looking forward to an even better year in 2019, which will only be possible with the continued support of all members and retirees. We urge members and retirees alike to get involved when you have information to add when we are taking an issue to arbitration and you know the history, that could be the difference between us winning and losing the case.
 
Below is a list of some of the highlights of 2018, I'm sure I won't be able to list them all.
 
NRG/GenOn 
  • The new year started off with a bang at NRG with an MOU that allowed 14 members to retire early with a VSP (Voluntary Severance Program) that was worth over $1,000,000, most received a year's salary for volunteering to leave early.
  • Cheswick and Brunot Island both got picked up in the capacity auction which was unexpected but very positive for those Plants.
  • Cheswick was only scheduled to run 20% of the time during 2018 but instead has run close to 80% of the time. For that reason, they have hired several people to supplement the workforce at that station.
  • We were able to settle a grievance that we had planned on taking to arbitration concerning how LTD is taxed and paid out. One member received $5,000 and two other members received $2500 each.
  • We went to arbitration over the retiree life insurance issue on September 12th and are still waiting on a decision from the arbitrator.
  • Finally, the bankruptcy that was supposed to be finalized in February ended just before Christmas and officially become GenOn(again).
People's Gas
  • Contract negotiations started on December 11th for a contract that expires on January 22, 2019.
  • We have battled most of the year over the "Theft Work" MOU which the Company continues to have a difference in opinion on how it is to be handled and how much if any they are doing.
  • First Energy (Beaver Valley) 
  • The deactivation and bankruptcy are the two big stories here, along with the fight to keep both units operational, so our members stay employed. We are hoping for legislation help on the deactivation part which would probably take care of the bankruptcy also.
  • KERP (Key Employee Retention Payments) has caused a lot of problems, first by pitting the Union's against the Company and then by causing some hard feelings over which union members will be included, and will receive a portion of the $13,000,000 that is slated to go to Beaver Valley IBEW 29 members.
  • We have selected two arbitrators to hear a grievance on upgrading of clerks and the other is on the Chemistry work, we are currently trying to agree on dates for the arbitrations.
  • Recently Unit 2 outage was completed on time, under budget and record low Radiation exposure, which can only help to keep both units operational.
Port Authority 
  • There have been very few issues at the Port Authority in 2018, I contribute that to the hard-working professional members we have working there. When there was a problem the Company was willing to work with us to resolve the issue without the need to file a grievance.
  • We were able to get a few jobs upgraded to a higher payrate.
  • We can only hope things remain this quiet in 2019, which will be beneficial when we negotiate a new contract in April of 2020.
Duquesne Light Company 
  • Being the biggest portion of our membership (about 850 members) it was also the busiest and our biggest challenge at this point.
  • In February we held our first arbitration of the year for a terminated employee and unfortunately, we lost even though we put on a good case, you never know how an arbitrator will rule.
  • We were able to settle several grievances scheduled for arbitration that resulted in payments to our members.
    •  travel time for 2 members each receiving over $6,000
    •  3 CSR's one received 10 days pay, 2 others 5 days each
    •  3 members in T&D received.... $13,506...$11,537 & $3,053 for not being paid correctly when changed to the backshift
    • 2 members received 8 hours of pay for unjust suspensions

These were just a few that were settled, watch the website and the Watts Current throughout the year to see more detailed list.

  • On July 19th we had an arbitration on FMLA and whether the Company had the right to implement a change in policy without the Union agreeing to the change.... we received the ruling in December which was in our favor (we won!!!) and will be very important going forward.
  • A member from Underground that was terminated in March of 2017 and was scheduled for arbitration was brought back to work and paid a lump sum when the Company decided to settle prior to arbitration.
  • On December 4th we had an arbitration hearing on the reasonable overtime issue.... another big issue that impacts a lot of members.... we are waiting for the answer, I expect the answer in the March, April timeframe.
  • The affected members in the T&D department voted on and passed a new Mutual Assistance MOU.
  • We agreed to a new Sr Operator Apprentice program in January 2018 which should help in filling those positions in the future and we were hopeful that we would be able to come to an agreement on short term solution to fill those jobs now, but to date the Company has only met with us 3 times. We currently have 3 meetings scheduled between now and February 1st, so I am hopeful we will have an agreement soon.
Union
  • To start 2018, we continued our effort to cut cost which included a revised Wage and Expense Policy which more clearly defined expenses and eliminated others. Also, we have tried to schedule meetings that would incur lost wages at times that would minimize those lost wages, while other meetings were scheduled after work hours so there would be no lost wages.
  • Unfortunately, we had a couple of members file charges at the Labor Board that they were not being represented fairly, there was a list of about 12 different items in the charge which after being investigated by the board were all dismissed since none of the charges had any merit. This did take time and focus away from dealing with the issues at the Companies along with lost wages and attorney fees that come out of your due's money.
  • The DOL (Dept. of labor) was also called by a member who made false accusations that they were denied access to review the Union's finances. We have a treasures report read at every monthly Union meeting along with the expenses for anyone who wants to look at them. The DOL came in and started an audit of the Union's finances in March and continue to work through their process (not sure with the Govt. shutdown how that will affect it). We have accountants that do an independent audit quarterly, so I am confident that if anything is being done incorrectly, we will only need minor changes to comply.
  • Community Service Committee led by Bill Webb,did another great job in 2018, after many great years and building the community service committee to what it is today, Bill will be handing it over to Al Dean but I'm sure Bill will still be there for any help Al will need. I want to Thank Bill for all his hard work over the years, I plan on having a more detailed article in an upcoming addition of Watts Current on the transformation of the Community Services since Bill took over.
  • MRC (Motorcycle Riding Club) the club continues to grow, and it was great to have them ride in the Labor Day Parade with us. Ken Jones and the rest of the club members do a great job of representing local 29 and getting our local's name out there. They do many charity rides and ride with other Union's, if your interested in joining or getting more information you can call the union hall or look on IBEW29.org website.
  • Retiree Club...Tim Moran and Rich Harkins have been running this club for several years and they meet monthly (except Feb. & March it's too cold out), this is a great way to stay in touch with other union members and stay current with some of the issues.
Glenn and I, along with the rest of the officers will continue to fight to improve this Union, and the working conditions, wages and benefits of the Companies everyone of you work for. We want to thank everyone for their support in 2018 and look forward to the continued support in 2019 of all the members and the retirees of this Union. We are stronger when we all stick together!

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