May 16, 2018PLYMOUTH — Eighty-three of New Hampshire Electric Cooperative's (NHEC) 200 employees remain on strike. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local Union #1837 went on strike on May 3 after nearly 20 negotiating sessions with NHEC management failed to result in a new contract. The contract expired on April 30.
Prior to the strike, NHEC assured the union committee that management would not lock out union employees when the contract expired. A lockout occurs when management refuses to allow union employees to work. It is different than a strike because during a strike, striking employees choose not to work, even though they have the option to continue working without a contract while negotiations continue. NHEC's union employees chose not to continue working. Although a federal mediator has been engaged and continues to meet with both sides, an agreement has not been reached and union workers remain out on strike. Contract line crews have been brought in to help maintain operations for NHEC and its members.
At issue is pension and 401k benefits for union employees. The union requested that the company offer union employees the same 401k and pension benefits as non-union employees. The company responded to the union's request by proposing pension and 401k benefits at the same level as non-union employees, including senior management. The proposal represents a dramatic increase in pension and 401k benefits for union employees. Despite the generous proposal, the union objects to language in the company's proposal that it be able to make the same changes to the pension plan at the same time changes are made to the pension plan for non-union employees. The intent of the company's proposal is to maintain the same level of pension and 401k benefits for union and non-union employees.
NHEC provides a comprehensive benefits package to all employees. A 1st Class Line Worker for NHEC makes an annual base salary of $81,057; plus an average of $6,547 for on-call pay for a total of approximately $87,604 annually. Line workers also frequently earn overtime. On average, in 2017, an NHEC Line Worker earned $30,000 in overtime. In addition to their wages, NHEC Line Workers receive a comprehensive benefits package, which on average costs NHEC $54,676 to provide. For a Line Worker at NHEC the Total Compensation and Benefit Package is approximately $172,280.
NHEC's union benefit package includes:
Personal Time five paid personal days
Holiday Pay eight paid holidays
Vacation 12-26 paid vacation days based on years of service
Sick leave 12 paid sick days
Health coverage (including dental and vision) 85 percent paid by NHEC; 15 percent paid by the employee
Defined Benefit Pension Plan fully paid by NHEC; based on a multiplying factor, annual salary and number of years of service.
401k Retirement Plan Percentage match by NHEC
Accidental, Death and Dismemberment Insurance paid by NHEC
Life insurance NHEC pays for coverage equal to two (2) times annual salary
NHEC has posted a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) on its Web site to inform members and the public about the union strike. Any new developments in the contract negotiations will also be posted online at www.nhec.com.
NHEC is a member-owned electric distribution cooperative serving 84,000 homes and businesses in New Hampshire.