(09/14/2016)
The first labor stoppage in nearly 80 years between Dominion and its former owners and the United Gas Workers Union has now stretched into a second week.

Pickets were still in place Tuesday on Rt. 16 near Dominion's office, where union workers have been locked-out by the company.

"I've been in contact with [the mediator], and I think he's potentially going to reach out to the company and try to set another day for negotiations," United Gas Workers Union Local 69 President Craig Bradford said Tuesday.

"But currently as of today we do not have a hard day to return to the table."

Bradford said the union offered to put in writing a guarantee that they would not go on strike if negotiations continued, but said Dominion decided to take a hard line by locking out workers.

"That Tuesday morning before they locked us out, we sent the company an e-mail indicating that we would sign a written agreement stating that we would not strike the company if they would not lock us out while we were negotiating," he said.

According to Bradford, the federal mediator recommended during the September 8 negotiating session that the two sides temporarily extend the labor contract that expired April 1 through the winter months .

"We were more than willing to stay working until the company locked us out," Bradford said.

The primary sticking point remains pensions and medical benefits for "book end" employees who have not yet been hired.

Although current retirees would see a reduction in their promised medical benefits.

"They want to replace a new hired person's pension with a cash balance fund, which would result in about a 40 percent decrease in benefits once they retire," Bradford said.

The lockout of more than 900 employees-approximately 450 in West Virginia- officially began at midnight on Tuesday, September 6.


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