(05/10/2005)
It's unclear if it's an agreement, but nearly 1,000 union employees of Dominion Hope and Dominion Transmission will get to decide on the terms and conditions of the latest table deal.

In about two weeks, they'll vote on a three-year contract, union spokesman Craig Bradford said.

"We don't call it a tentative agreement," Bradford said. "We have agreed to take the company's latest proposal to the membership for a vote."

Union and company officials have been negotiating a contract since February, with the company drastically cutting health-care benefits.

Like most benefit packages, the results seem to get lost in the myriad of proposals.

The new three-year contract contains wage increases retroactive to April 1, Dominion spokesman Bob Fulton said. It also offers job security and a variety of insurance benefits long-term disability, health, dental and vision, he said.

Employees would get a 3.5 percent wage increase each year, Bradford said. The company would also put $3.7 million into a VEBA, or voluntary employee benefits account, that the union can spend as it chooses.

That money is supposed to make up gaps in the employees medical premiums.

"We would use that to subsidize our employees' medical premiums," said Bradford. "Currently, I pay $81 a month. That will go to $309. We hope the VEBA will pay most of that," but workers say that is unclear.

"We also obtained a successorship clause. If the company or part of it is sold, the new owner must recognize the union and our contract. That's pretty important."

"Other than that, there are lots of language changes too technical to describe. We're still absorbing everything. We're still proofreading the agreement, then we'll print it and send it out to members."

Bradford said the committee hopes to make a contract recommendation to members by the end of the week.


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