Negotiators from Pepco and a labor union representing many of its workers are expected to return to the negotiating table Friday to avoid a possible strike.
Members of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1900, which represents 1,150 Pepco workers including overhead line mechanics, underground cable splicers and warehouse and administrative employees, voted to reject the utility’s “last, best and final” contract offer Wednesday.
The union’s negotiating committee urged its members to vote against the proposal, offered earlier this month after five months of negotiations, arguing in a letter the utility was asking workers to accept reduced health benefits for spouses and to take on additional responsibilities for no additional compensation.
“There is no question in our minds that this offer you will vote on is the worst proposal this Local has faced in its entire history,” the union’s negotiating committee wrote.
Pepco officials are standing by their position.
“We think that our offer is very fair and equitable,” said Myra Oppel, Pepco spokeswoman, adding the offer does not change the workers’ pension plan and includes pay increases.
The health care package, which would cut benefits for workers’ spouses only if they are offered insurance by their employers, is the same as what is offered to Pepco’s management team, Oppel said. Negotiations are expected to resume Friday, she said.
Union members would have to vote again to declare a strike and would need to give Pepco 48 hours’ notice before a strike begins, according to the utility.
Oppel said Pepco was well-prepared for the possibility of a strike, and that managers and more than 400 contractors could be called on to fill in.
In the event of an unexpected outage such as the one caused by the derecho that blew through the region in June, the utility’s regular mutual assistance plan, which calls on workers from other states, would go into effect, Oppel said.