Unions representing more than 1,000 locked-out National Grid steelworkers delivered a counteroffer to the utility yesterday that they say addresses workers’ concerns about safety and company issues regarding new hires and health care, but it is unclear if the company will accept the offer.
“We made a counterproposal that we feel addresses both the company’s and the union’s concerns,” said John Buonopane, president of United Steel Workers Local 12012. “We’re hoping the company takes it seriously.”
The steelworkers’ proposal, which Buonopane declined to explain in detail, is a formal counteroffer to National Grid’s proposal in October. The offer, Buonopane said, was made in an attempt to make progress in negotiations between the two sides.
“We made proposals that we hoped would result in meaningful movement,” he said. “Our people want to work, they don’t want to be locked out.”
The proposal addresses a number of key issues for both sides, Buonopane said.
“It addresses many of the union’s safety concerns along with the company’s,” he said. “It does address their concerns about new hires and medical plan.”
Buonopane said it is unclear how National Grid will respond to the offer.
“They said they were going to need a few days to review part of it,” he said.
The union and National Grid met last Friday, and will meet again in a week.
“We are reviewing the unions’ counter-proposal — their first in five months. We have already offered increased salaries, job security, and market-leading benefits — in keeping with managing customer costs while not compromising safety,” said Christine Milligan, a National Grid spokeswoman, in a statement. “We look forward to continued discussions about their counterproposal. In fact, we requested a meeting for Saturday. However, the unions have said they’re unavailable, so we will return to the negotiation table in earnest for a session on Thursday. It is critical that union members have the opportunity to begin seeing the benefits of a new contract.”
Roughly 1,200 National Grid workers have been locked out since June after negotiations to replace the union’s contract with National Grid reached a stalemate. The company is using managers and outside contractors to oversee complaints during the stoppage. Union representatives have said those replacement workers are not safely performing the work. The two sides have clashed over National Grid’s proposed changes to the company’s health care plan and benefits for new hires.
Locked-out workers have been picketing at worksites across the region, and the union has held a number of marches in Boston.