LIBN Column: Pull up a chair
With the legislative session coming to a close, Albany is in scrambling before the pols head back home for some old-fashioned baby-kissing.
It’s a magical time of year in the state capital, filled with conference calls and power plays and closed-door conversations.
It’s not the time for new ideas. It’s deal-making time.
It’s also mistake-making time, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo has clearly made one with Program Bill No. 6, the LIPA overhaul plan.
The governor’s flirtation with liquidating LIPA has met both fanfare and resistance. Organized labor was at the table when Cuomo outlined issues affecting energy maintenance and distribution, but the most-important issues of employee protections were not addressed prior to the bill’s public release.
With no definition of terms such as “adequate service” or language addressing staffing ratios, major issues such as emergency preparedness for Island-based utility workers are still exist.
These uncertainties don’t just create anxiety and safety risks for the utility worker – they end up costing money. For months, the union that worked tirelessly to restore power after Sandy has been pounding the pavement to warn whoever will listen that there’s no emergency workforce synergy agreement in place between National Grid, which owns the gas, and PSEG, which will manage the electrical supply.
The upshot: PSEG will be forced to hire out-of-state contractors for electrical repair jobs, even after a mild storm.
Cuomo’s deal probably won’t go through as-is. There have been multiple public hearings attended by union members, and IBEW 1049 has been invited back to the table.
So the union is being heard and now progress can be made. But organized labor should have been kept in the loop all along.
Sometimes, it’s who’s not at the table that determines the fate of proposed bills – the well-conceived ones that develop into laws and the last-minute rush jobs that don’t.
The difference-maker is often having the right people in place.