Representatives of Penelec and the Utility Workers Union of America Local 180 will again meet with a federal mediator Monday in Pittsburgh.
The two sides met with the mediator Dec. 9 with no progress reported.
"We are more than willing to meet with them. This is an opportunity. We are hopeful something positive will come from that meeting," said Scott Surgeoner, FirstEnergy spokesman.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Penelec workers respond to motorists while picketing on Friday. The workers have been locked out since late November.
FirstEnergy, Penelec's parent company, locked out about 140 line, substation, clerk and meter services employees in the Altoona, Huntingdon, Lewistown and Shippensburg areas from reporting to work after the union rejected the company's final
The last best final offer contained a wage increase of 8 percent over the three-year life of the contract, increases in shift premiums and meal allowances and additional operational improvements such as a new job classification intended to increase customer service and efficiency, the company said.
The union claimed the company is attempting to take away benefits, mainly retiree health care by the end of 2014 and is trying to move away from the current defined benefit pension plan to a cash balance defined contribution plan that would replace company liability.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, FirstEnergy mailed what it calls an informational letter to Local 180 members from Penelec Regional President Scott Wyman.
"We want to make sure they are getting the latest up-to-date information on their contract," Surgeoner said.
The company is urging the union to allow its members to vote on the offer, which it believes is fair to employees and the customers the company serves, Wyman said.
"The comprehensive benefit package that is being offered to Local 180 is consistent with what the majority of FirstEnergy employees receive. The wage increases offered are fair, and the benefits remain very competitive in our industry and in our region," Wyman wrote.
Utility Workers Union President Bob Whalen is hopeful Monday's session will be productive.
"I am always optimistic. I am there to negotiate a contract and get these people back to work. They are digging their heels in to get folks to accept an inferior contract. I am there to negotiate, something they haven't done, or we would have a deal," Whalen said.
Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.