Energy West Responds to Union’s Concerns


There are always two sides to a story.

After a recent article outlining issues Local 1769 and 2176 Union officials are feeling about current contract negotiations, Energy West spokesperson, Maria O’Mara wanted to clarify management’s side of the matter.

O’Mara had been contacted before the original story was published and had verified that negotiations were ongoing, but had also stated that issues were best handled in the process rather than out in the press. She referred to a previous press release and provided В contact information for any further questions

In the article the Union stated their side of the negotiations and expressed a degree of frustration on what they perceive as sticking points. The Union represents miners from Deer Creek Mine in В Huntington.

Energy West wanted to clarify some of the information in the story so the public will also know their line on the issues at hand. В Energy West supplies coal to Rocky Mountain Power.

Since last week both sides have met twice at the bargaining table and there are more talks scheduled through February according to O’Mara. В Energy West also says they have dates proposed through March and April, but have not heard back from union officials as of Monday afternoon.

She went on to state that there is no attempt to try and “bust” the union and management wants to continue to bargain in good faith to get a contract in place.

As the previous article explained, a big point of difference is the make-up of the safety committee. O’Mara explained that the current contract has no limits on how many union members can be part of that group. She says there are over 10 union members that currently are part of the safety committee.

“Basically safety is our top priority and we are trying to improve overall quality and safety practices,” she added. “However, to do that Energy West is proposing a restructure of the committee with fewer members to be more a more efficient group.”

A subcommittee was formed to address this and they came up with a proposal. The Union felt there were issues with the proposal and the subcommittee made modifications to address the issues and brought it back to the Union. The Union then rejected the proposal again. That is where the matter stands.

O’Mara stressed that management has never proposed to eliminate the committee. She also disputed the notion that there was any proposal to do away with the requirement to shut the mine down after a fatality.

“Safety is part of the company culture and we are in partnership with the Union to make that happen,” O’Mara stressed. “At the end of the day we want everyone to go home safe to their families.”

Also proposed in the negotiations Energy West would like the flexibility to hire contract workers. Since this is something the Union feels is part of the “Union Busting” efforts, O’Mara was asked if the company had a response to that at this time.

She restated that they do not want to use the media to play out the issues, but in response to the questions asked that they are looking at using contract workers in some maintenance and non-mining work. The company feels it needs the flexibility to use contract workers as the life of the mine begins to near its end. The company does not plan on displacing workers to accomplish this, but rather would transition over time as current employees voluntarily leave or retire.

“The ability to hire some contract employees to fill some jobs that open up allows us to better manage the challenges that come with a mine that is reaching the end of its useful life, and a workforce that is shrinking by its own actions,” O’Mara explained. “Safety is a top priority and a capable, qualified workforce is key to maintaining safety for all employees.”

“The company has no intention of busting the union. The union has the right to organize contractors as well, if people choose to join. The company will bargain in good faith about all these issues,” she added.

Union spokesperson Brian Lee wasn’t as hopeful. He said he felt like nothing had budged in the two meetings. В The Union feels the talks will remain stalled if management continues to ask for contract workers to be allowed to be hired rather than union workers only.

Even though Energy West is not eliminating the safety committee, Lee also said they felt it was a matter of whether the union would have any say in the make-up of the safety committee.

“They want to be able to pick and chose who is on it and get rid of anybody they want,” he stated, “and we feel the things they are asking for are unacceptable to us.”

As of now talks are ongoing with both sides maneuvering for something to shift in what is being offered.


To read the previous article click on the link below:

Energy West and Deer Creek Miners at Odds on Contract Issues



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