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No movement in Penelec employee lockout

By: Marc Stempka

ALTOONA, Pa. -- No movement has been reported between two sides in an ongoing contract dispute that has left more than 140 utility workers off the job for nearly two months in Blair County.

First Energy, parent company of Penelec, locked out employees of Utility Workers Union of America Local 180 in Altoona on Nov. 25 following a breakdown in contract talks. Penelec says its "Last, best and final offer" remains on the table, but the union maintains the proposed contract doesnt do enough to protect retiree healthcare and other benefits.

The two sides men Monday in Pittsburgh, but with still no contract agreed upon.

Penelec spokesman Scott Surgeoner said the company continues to utilize out of state contractors to handle the workload while employees remain locked out.

"The contractors have worked with us very well," Surgeoner said. "Theyve rotated their crews as we've rotated ours, so its the same guys we see on a periodic regular basis every two weeks and we get the work done that has to be done."

The locked-out employees are receiving unemployment pay, but they are not receiving healthcare benefits, Surgeoner said.

The lockout includes 142 linemen, meter readers, substation electricians and clerks in Altoona, Bedford, Ebensburg, Huntingdon and other locations in Pennsylvania. This is the first lockout imposed on employees by First Energy.

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Edgar Snyder

Washington Times