Tentative Deal Set at Brooklyn Union Gas
After Union Initiates Corporate Campaign

NEW YORK -- Brooklyn Union Gas Co. and Transport Workers Union Local 101 reached a tentative settlement Oct. 16, three days [15 days] after the union local enlisted a labor consultant to help put pressure against an expected company lockout.

Facing a contract expiration at midnight Oct. 15, the 2,000-member local announced Oct. 13 that it had signed up Corporate Campaign Inc. to help put "economic and political pressure" on Brooklyn Union. The utility company had told union negotiators to expect a lockout unless they made major concessions, the union claimed.

Among the company proposals, the union said, were pay cuts, longer hours, pension reductions, elimination of shift differentials, and lifting of subcontracting restrictions. The union had not taken a strike vote and said it was seeking to keep its workers on the job during negotiations.

Brooklyn Union, which supplies natural gas to three New York City boroughs, has locked out union members four times in the past, most recently for 13 weeks in 1986, the union said.

In the campaign, the local wrote to two area banks -- one whose president serves on the utility's board, and one that has the utility's president on its board -- protesting the management position. The local also planned a public march Oct. 16 that would take demonstrators through downtown Brooklyn past banks and universities viewed as linked to Brooklyn Union. The march was canceled after a tentative settlement was reached in the early morning hours that day, the union said.

Tile tentative settlement would call for a 9 percent wage increase over three years, the union reported. The raises would start with 1 percent in October 1995, followed by 2 percent in July 1996, 1 percent in October 1996, 2 percent in July 1997, 1 percent in October 1997, and 2 percent in July 1998.

According to the union, the tentative pact does not include any job banding, pay cuts, longer hours for clerical workers, cuts in shift differentials reductions in Sunday premium and holiday pay, overtime changes, vacation cuts, or pension reductions.

Contract provisions would give the TWU local first shot at reorganizing the workforce if the utility follows through on plans to convert to a holding company, double the company's 401 (k) plan matching contribution, set up a gainsharing incentive bonus program involving both union and management employees, and offer early retirement at full pension to workers at least 52 years old and with at least 33 years of service, the union reported.

In an interview, local president Marsha Spinowitz said the union's success at averting a lockout and reaching a tentative settlement was due to "a combination of many factors." The corporate campaign was one of those factors, she said.

"I think it gave our membership more strength to know that we had an operative working for them, while we concentrated on bargaining the contract," she said. "He [the consultant] was active when we needed him to be, and we're happy with the
results."

Asked to comment on the tentative settlement, a company spokesman said, "We believe the agreement balances the needs of our employees, our customers, and our stockholders." He declined further comment until after the union membership reviews and votes on the settlement. A ratification vote is scheduled for Nov. 15.

Public pressure drives mounted by New York-based Corporate Campaign Inc. and other like-minded consultants and unions have come under fire from business groups, who arc seeking legislative and regulatory changes to blunt their impact (184 DLR AA-I, 9/22/95).