St. Louis Utility Local Wins Enhanced Staffing
July 28, 2010
At the IBEW Utility Conference earlier this month, delegates were urged to accelerate their efforts to convince utilities to staff up for expected retirements by establishing constructive relationships with state utility commissioners.
St. Louis, Local 1439 was already on board. “We have not only increased staffing,” says Business Manager Mike Walter, “We have developed a good rapport with the commissioners.
Last October, while Missouri’s public service commission and AmerenUE discussed a rate increase, says Business Manager Mike Walter:
In May, the PSC heeded the local’s advice and approved a plan for Ameren to hire 14 new employees: 13 future bargaining unit members and one manager who will conduct training. The plan also provides for a new $600,000 building to be erected for training and more funds for a mobile unit to train linemen in automated switches.
All told, the PSC provided for Ameren to recover $3.3 million in rate increases to pay for enhanced training. While consumers will pay more in the short run, says Walter, they will save over the long haul due to better preparedness for attrition. “We came out the winner,” says Walter, who mobilized shop stewards to attend PSC hearings.
Improved rapport with the PSC has led to other breakthroughs. Local 1439 recently intervened in a rate case filed by Atmos Energy after the filing deadline, while the union and company were in contract negotiations.
The PSC voted 4 to 1 to allow the late testimony and the company appealed. On appeal, the PSC voted 5 to 0 to permit the local’s input. The commission’s recognition of the local’s role contributed to the company settling the contract.
As Local 1439 has continued to make its case for improved staffing to commissioners, utility companies, says Walter, are more likely to honor their own common goals with the union—to rebuild infrastructure and enhance power generation. He adds: