CL&P workers reject contract offer

The union that represents about 1,000 Connecticut Light & Power workers announced Friday evening that more than 95 percent of members rejected a contract proposal from the company that union leadership said includes "dangerous cost-cutting measures."

"It is unconscionable that as company executives rake in record salaries and bonuses, CL&P continues to cut staff, implement dangerous amounts of forced overtime, and replace skilled local workers with costly, inexperienced out-of-state contractors," union leaders Frank Cirillo and John Fernandez said in a joint statement. Cirillo is business manager of IBEW Local 420 and Fernandez is business manager of IBEW Local 457.

Mitch Gross, spokesman for the utility, said Friday the union has a history of rejecting contracts one or more times before reaching a final agreement.

"We're disappointed that the union membership has voted 'no' to our offer to increase wages," he said. "We made a good offer and we hope to have a contract in place soon. The union leadership continues to use the media to distort the issues."

In its statement, the union urged business and community leaders and ratepayers to put pressure on the company "to ensure that ... massive profits do not come at the expense of safe and reliable power for Connecticut Communities."

The union also referred to the prolonged power outages that occurred after Tropical Storm Irene and the October 2011 snowstorm, saying a new contract agreement must correct "dangerous and inadequate staffing levels that have contributed to some of the worse storm response in Connecticut history."

Gross countered that CL&P staffing levels are in line with those of leading utilities.

"We have almost the same number of line workers as a year ago, and we've offered to add 30 more," he said.

j.benson@theday.com

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