Do National Grid Managers deserve our sympathy?
Right now as you are reading this, natural gas provider National Grid is training scabs in preparation of a possible work stoppage in early February 2015.
The United Kingdom-based utility company is negotiating with its workforce represented by the Hauppauge-based International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1049. Like most labor contract negotiations, both sides are going back and forth on wages and benefits, muscles are being flexed, threats made, and regardless of the fact that this workforce had no gas outages during the recent blizzard, the company wants concessions and the union wants to maintain what it has.
But this isn’t a column about labor management conflict during contract negotiations.
The fact is that most of the managers at National Grid are poorly compensated and some are simply underqualified. Most don’t even have commercial drivers’ licenses to drive those huge bucket trucks. The Local 1049 workers are used to this, and over the years the logo on the sides of utility vehicles has gone from LILCO to KeySpan, LIPA and, now, National Grid.
The only constants are the men and women who maintain the gas lines and produce the power at our various power plants. Maybe that is why we have heard ads from Local 1049 stating, “You can count on us,” because over the years the union workforce at any of the gas utility companies Long Island has used has continuously proven to get the job done, while management takes the credit at Long Island Association luncheons.
National Grid has a major problem with producing and keeping good management. It doesn’t respect the greatest resource any company has: the human resource. The best workers Local 1049 can produce do not go into management because the compensation is extremely poor. National Grid offers no medical benefits after age 65 and managers get less paid vacation and holidays than their union workforce. Management at National Grid is required to work longer, sometimes with little or no breaks and, at times, is managed by their superiors in a demeaning way. Because managers are not union, there really is no grievance procedure. It’s sad, and believe it or not, Local 1049 can sympathize with its bosses.
This culture of belittling and incompetence is what National Grid wants to impose on its union workforce, and Local 1049 isn’t budging. Whether you’re union or in management, anyone with any business sense should be rooting for the union in this one.