Alabama Power and union agree on new contract

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 14, 2004

REGION – An apparent contract dispute between Alabama Power Co. and union members could be resolved tonight, thwarting any risk of an employee strike at the Greene County Steam Plant.

Steve Hood, an Alabama Power spokesman, said contract negotiations over the weekend resulted in an agreement that will keep union employees on the job.

“From what I know, some changes were made to the contract,” Hood said, without specifying what exactly changed. “I have heard that [the union] will vote again tomorrow.”

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Bubba Bryant, local leader of the Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union, confirmed that a vote began Monday night.

“We’ll be finished with the vote [Tuesday],” he said.

More importantly, Bryant said leaders of a union committee have recommended that members pass the new contract.

“I hope it passes,” he said.

If that happens tonight, Alabama Power and union members would avert a strike that would have included nearly 3,000 employees around the state.

In mid August, members of the union voted to allow the threat of a strike to be used as a bargaining tool. It is unclear whether union leaders ever made that threat official, but it is clear that some of the sticking points in the employee contract were changed.

Though union officials never publicly discussed hold-ups in the contract, many speculated that safety, seniority and benefit issues were at the heart of the dispute between Alabama Power Co. and the Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Most of the employees affected by the contract negotiations worked in generation, transmission and distribution, according to Hood. A number of those workers are employed at the Greene County Steam Plant.

While it appears Alabama Power has successfully negotiated through its union dilemma, a spokesman for Gulf States Paper Corp. said nothing has changed in the status of its contract dispute with union members.

Dan Meissner said last week that company and union officials were again scheduled to hold further talks on a contract that has stalled since the first of the year. Members of the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers International Union have voted down a Gulf States contract three times.

Last week, a federal mediator again met with the two parties, though it appears no breakthroughs occurred.

“Not much has changed,” Meissner said on Monday.