Penelec, union report no progress

Representatives of Penelec and the Utility Workers Union of America Local 180 met again Thursday with a federal mediator in Pittsburgh with no progress toward a settlement in their contract dispute.

FirstEnergy, Penelec’s parent company, locked out about 140 line, substation, clerk and meter services employees in the Altoona, Huntingdon, Lewistown and Shippensburg areas on Nov. 25 after the union rejected the company’s final contract offer.

Thursday’s session lasted from about 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., but there was not a lot of “face to face” time, said Scott Surgeoner, FirstEnergy spokesman.

“The last best final offer is our offer. We are not negotiating on retirement health care. The way to come back is for them to ratify the last best and final offer,” Surgeoner said.

FirstEnergy is sending another letter to local 180 members summarizing its position.

In the letter signed by James Cole, FirstEnergy’s lead negotiator, the company indicates wages and benefits lost in 2013 are gone but is offering union members a one-time opportunity to minimize their losses from 2014 if the union notifies the company in writing that it will revote the signed stipulation of settlement dated Nov. 23.

Following such notification, if the union notifies the company by Jan. 10 that the stipulation of settlement has been ratified, the company will pay lost wages for normal scheduled work from the date of the written notification of the scheduled vote to the date that the offer is ratified, the letter states.

The company must be notified of contract ratification no later than 11 a.m. on Jan. 10. If notification is not received in writing to Cole by that time, then this opportunity for payment will have expired, according to the letter.

Leaders of Local 180 signed a stipulation of settlement on Nov. 23 to the last best final offer and indicated they would take it to the membership for a vote but would not recommend approval or rejection. Members rejected the offer on Nov. 24, Surgeoner said.

No further talks have been scheduled, Surgeoner said.

Utility Workers Union President Bob Whalen could not be reached for comment.

Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.