Union’s suit stalls electric co-op’s layoff plan


The New Hampshire Electrical Cooperative’s plan to lay off 10 to 20 workers Thursday and Friday has been put on hold, thanks to a suit filed last week by International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1837 in U.S. District Court in Concord.In the suit, the union charges that the co-op threatened to lay off nine union workers Thursday. The union claimed that this would violate a contract clause that mandated the company look at alternatives, such as reducing salaries of management and in-sourcing work previously contracted out. In its response, the co-op said it hadn’t determined the number of employees to be laid off, but it had followed the contract and it had the right to do so. In a press released issued Wednesday in response to media inquiries, the co-op said it did take the “difficult decision to eliminate positions,” but did not indicate how many. It blamed the layoffs on the sluggish economy, lower electrical usage and the cost of benefits. The company did not mention that it may have lost $400,000 in expected revenue because of FairPoint Communications’ bankruptcy filing.Co-op spokesman Seth Wheeler said that the company had planned to lay off between 10 and 20 workers today and tomorrow, but had postponed the action because of the lawsuit. The co-op claimed that the layoffs might be avoided if the union agreed to cost-cutting measures, and in any case the matter should be settled in arbitration and not in court.The union is asking the court to issue a preliminary injunction to stop the layoffs. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 8. The layoffs have been postponed until the court ruling, according to Wheeler. – BOB SANDERS/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW
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