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EAST OHIO GAS Union rejects company's offer



Published: Fri, June 29, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Workers say they are resisting concessions in pension, health insurance and retirement savings.

By DON SHILLING

VINDICATOR BUSINESS EDITOR

YOUNGSTOWN -- A union representing Dominion East Ohio workers is frustrated by contract negotiations, saying the gas company is seeking concessions unnecessarily.

Local 555 of the Natural Gas Workers Union was taking its dissatisfaction public today with a demonstration at the company's Cleveland office and at Jacobs Field, where the Cleveland Indians are having a night honoring the company.

The union thinks the company is making enough money that it shouldn't be seeking concessions from workers in pensions, medical insurance, retirement savings and other benefits.

"We just want to keep what we have, but they want to take away what we have," said Terry Stocker of Struthers, executive secretary of Local 555.

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.

Stocker said the union's executive committee rejected a contract offer from the company June 15, which was the expiration date of the last contract. The two sides agreed to continue negotiating.

Offer: The company's offer included a change in pension provisions that would mean reduced benefits for longtime workers, he said.

The company also wants to cut its contributions to the workers' 401K retirement plans in half, he said.

It wants a 230 percent increase in employee contributions to health care insurance over the length of a proposed five-year contract, he said.

Stocker said the company has provided insufficient details on two of the three health care options in its offer. Documents provided do not detail benefits well enough for the union to judge the plans, he said.

Stocker said he didn't want to comment on wages because the two sides are trying to resolve differences on benefits before focusing on wages.

Company statement: Tracy Oliver, a company spokeswoman, said Dominion East Ohio remains committed to reaching a settlement but thinks its offer is fair and equitable. She didn't want to comment on specifics.

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

shilling@vindy.com




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