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DOMINION EAST OHIO Workers to vote on 5-year pact



Published: Tue, July 17, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Increasing health-care costs led the gas company to demand concessions, a union official said.

By DON SHILLING

VINDICATOR BUSINESS EDITOR

YOUNGSTOWN -- Dominion East Ohio workers will vote Friday on a new five-year labor contract that includes annual raises of about 3 percent but increases payments for health-care insurance.

The executive committee of Local 555 of the Natural Gas Workers Union voted 24-0 Monday to recommend that workers approve the contract.

Union and company negotiators reached the deal Saturday.

Terry Stocker of Struthers, executive secretary of Local 555, said negotiations were difficult because the company was demanding concessions since talks began in January.

"By negotiating hard we were able to salvage some kind of contract that's livable. It's health care. It's going through the roof," he said.

Union members had been paying $30 a month for family health-care insurance, but that would go up to $100 a month over the life of the contract.

The proposal also calls for reductions in the company match on 401k retirements plans but improvements in pensions.

Tracy Oliver, a company spokeswoman, said company officials think the offer is a fair proposal.

Representation: The union represents 1,200 workers in several Ohio cities, including more than 100 in the Mahoning Valley. Included are meter readers, construction and maintenance crews and customer service representatives.

The last contract expired June 15, but the two sides agreed to continue negotiating.

This is the first contract negotiations between the company and Local 555 since Dominion Resources of Richmond, Va., acquired East Ohio Gas last year.

Stocker said he thinks the company took some hard positions on health insurance and retirement plans because it wants consistency among its union contracts and to set a pattern for negotiations with four other locals which are upcoming.

"We were the first one on the block so they had to draw a line," he said.

shilling@vindy.com




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