Tuesday, February 16, 2016
Local 29 reached an agreement with Duquesne Light Company to conduct an early negotiation session for the contract that expires September 30th of this year. Both sides agreed to meet the week of February 8th with a goal of reaching an agreement by the end of the day on Friday, February 12th, or if not successful to go back to normal negotiations in the August/September time frame. We did reach that agreement on February 12th for a three year package. An explanation meeting and ratification vote will be conducted on Wednesday, March 2nd at the Greentree Crowne Plaza Hotel (formerly a Holiday Inn, a Ramada Inn and a Comfort Inn) located at 401 Holiday Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15220. Meeting times will be 10:00 AM and 7:00 PM that day. Our rules do not allow absentee ballots, members must attend one of the sessions to get a ballot to cast a vote. This agreement is Unanimously recommended by the Union's Negotiating Committee. Contract resumes with details of the proposed contract changes have been distributed to the membership at Duquesne Light for their review.
Some of the details for this package are wage increases of 2.5% on October 1, 2016, 2.75% on October 1, 2017, and 3.0% on October 1, 2018. These wage increases are above average as compared to other recent Utility agreement settlements. For those in the defined benefit pension plan, the five year window used for the pension calculation will be increased by one year in each year of the agreement. Shift differential will increase by ten cents in the first year of the agreement and five cents in each of the other two years which will bring shift differential to $2.00 per hour in that third year. Meal allowance will increase fifty cents the first year and twenty five cents in each of the two following years reaching $8.75 at that time. There will also be a onetime one dollar increase in per-diems for the mobile workers that receive them, effective October 1, 2016. The Construction Crew per-diem will increase from $32.00 to $35.00 also on October 1, 2016.
We once again brought in our Healthcare consultant, Chris Goldsmith from Segal Company, to assist us with the discussion and negotiations of these benefits. The Company was looking at a number of changes in health benefits, with the help from Mr. Goldsmith we were able to change their positions on many items and keep the changes reasonable for our members. The Gold plan will no longer be available, when analyzed by Segal, there was virtually no case where that plan at its cost factors save our members any money, it actually costs them more at the end of the year. The CDHP plan, bronze plan, silver plan and Aetna plans all remain with some reasonable changes to deductibles and out of pocket maximums. There is a slight increase in the percentage of the plan that the employee pays each year.
There is a significant change in the method of healthcare delivery for retirees in this agreement. Unlike most other employers, Duquesne was not trying to eliminate pre-65 retiree medical coverage, but did want to keep costs reasonable. Retirees will receive a yearly stipend to help them pay for the cost of their coverage, both for themselves and an equal amount for a covered spouse just as the existing system does. The Company will provide a third party concierge that retirees will use to assist them in making choices on the individual or private marketplace for the choice of plans that best suits them. Plans are available that will potentially save them money in comparison to the existing system. We will have Chris Goldsmith with us at the Ratification meetings to explain this and the other health care issues to our members.
In response to pressure from the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC), the Company's main issue was to control costs on overtime. They wanted to make some significant changes in our language on contracting out of work to achieve this goal. This agreement does indeed give them some relief in this area, and still preserves much of our guarantees that our people will work overtime if there are contractors doing their work over a certain level. The existing threshold is 5% of qualified in-house workers in any given craft. This agreement moves that amount to 10% of qualified workers.
We also agreed to changes in three specific areas beyond that threshold. The Laborer-Scheduled Mobile classification and Flagging duties will not be subject to the percentage rules, the Company will be able to use contractors to assist with this type of work. Some of the existing Laborers will be moved to the T&D Mobile classification to assist T&D crews with flagging and other labor work.
Another change with contractors will be in the call center. All of the part-time Customer Service Reps will be offered full-time positions, over 30 of them are currently working there. Up to five will be allowed to remain part-time if they wish. When there is additional assistance needed beyond that, the Company will be allowed to use a Contract call center. They will be limited to use no more contractors than 25% of our full-time CSR's. When they do use contracted CSR's, the Company must offer eight hours of overtime to our members and the amount of our CSR's offered the overtime will be equal to the amount of contractors actually used.
Beside the 30 plus part time CSR's that will be offered full-time positions, the Company has committed to continued hiring over the life of this proposed agreement. They have agreed to hiring at least 50 new Local 29 employees in the first year and forty in each of the two following years for a total of 130 as a minimum.
This agreement also includes a separate Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). Several changes in technology will soon have an impact on the need for some of our represented positions. The Pennsylvania Legislature mandated Smart Meter program is the source of much of this change. As the service territory is being converted and automated, there will be less need for Meter Readers and Customer Service Specialist "B's". Also upcoming changes with new timekeeping software will impact several Clerical positions that handle the timekeeping duties. This MOU assure that none of these people will lose employment with Duquesne, their position might be eliminated, but they will have the chance to be shifted to a different position at the Company and maintain employment.
This agreement provides good wage increases, reasonable healthcare costs, pension updates, full-time work to our part-time members, job protection to those affected by technology changes, future hiring and maintains guarantees on overtime being scheduled when contractors are used, that is why the Negotiating Committee Unanimously recommends this agreement.