(02/21/2005)
A union representing about 1,000 Dominion Energy workers in five states, mostly West Virginians and several Calhoun County workers, have expressed "bewilderment and disappointment" over the health-care proposal in the company's contract offer.

The company is proposing to increase employee contributions to their health insurance by 400%.

The union complained that millions of dollars are paid to company executives and management personnel in the form of bonuses, salary increases and stock options, while company employee benefits get hammered.

The Utility Workers Union of America has been trying to change Dominion's corporate bylaws to require shareholder approval of executives who receive pay exceeding $1 million.

That union has also been asking for detailed disclosure of incentive-pay plans for executives. The action came after Dominions execs increased their salaries and benefits when profits declined.

Dominion Chairman and CEO Thomas E. Capps was paid $7.22 million, $1.1 million in salary, $1.4 million in bonus and the remainder in other compensation.

The corporate executives gave each other raises.

"They're really profit-driven, which might make this hard for us," said Craig Bradford, spokesman for United Gas Workers Local 69-II. "The last two contracts we considered concessionary contracts. I think our members have had enough of those concessions."

The current three-year contract for workers of Dominion Transmission and Dominion Hope expires April 1.

More than 500 employees work in the Mountain State, Bradford said.

"Right now, I pay $81 [per month] for my family plan," he said. Under the company's proposal, that would go up to more than $400, Bradford said.

Robert Fulton, a company spokesman in Clarksburg, said "You look at the way health-care costs are rising and it's a matter of necessity."

With a 2,800-mile pipeline system, Dominion Hope delivers gas to "thousands of residential, business and wholesale customers throughout 32 counties in West Virginia," according to the company Web site.

"My neighbors stop me and complain to me about their gas bills and I have to try and explain to them that our negotiations and past contracts have had little, if any, bearing with what Dominion squeezes out of them in rates," said Local 69-II Vice President Bryan Ash. I doubt that a single penny we have conceded has been used to drop or maintain gas rates in West Virginia."

Dominion Transmission maintains 10,000 miles of pipeline and operates the world's largest underground natural gas storage system, according to the Web site.

Dominion Hope's and Dominion Transmission's parent company, Dominion Energy, is based in Richmond, Va., and serves more than 5 million customers in eight states.

When the Calhoun Commission in the 1980s attempted to collect taxes from the company for their large operation in county, the issue went to court.

The court ordered that the commission was not to even request the company to pay the county taxes, that they were paying them elsewhere.

SEE earlier Hur Herald story "WHY IS WEST VIRGINIA BROKE? - Consider 71 Corporations That Do Not Pay Taxes"


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