The blizzard played a role in a political action staged Monday at the State Capitol by unionized utility workers unhappy with staffing cutbacks at two Northeast Utilities subsidiaries, Connecticut Light & Power and Yankee Gas.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s storm briefing coincided with a press conference by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and it also gave NU a ready message to minimize the union action without responding to the substance.
“We find it not only misguided but also inappropriate for the union leadership to hold a press conference such as this when we have a blizzard headed to our region. As first responders, we are focused on public safety and the restoration of our electric system for our customers,” said Mitch Gross, a spokesman for the company. “Now, more than ever, we need to come together as a company and work as a team.”
Members of IBEW Locals 420 and 457 delivered to the office of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy copies of a no-confidence message recently given to the leadership of Northeast Utilities. The letter said that CL&P has lowered its level of service by closing regional work centers and making more use of contractors for after-hours work.
The unions are asking the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority to review the cutbacks in the context of NU’s merger with NStar and order a restoration of staffing levels.
“They’re the ones who are in charge,” said John Fernandes, the business manager of Local 457. “They are the one who can make that decision.”
Fernandes said the unions, who had announced the press event last week, were not trying to use the storm, but he acknowledged that the storm might make the public more attentive to the performance of CL&P, the state’s largest public utility.
“We have received the petition and are reviewing the concerns within it,” said Devon Puglia, a spokesman for Malloy. “In the interim, the governor is focused on preparing for this blizzard, and we hope that CL&P and the IBEW Locals 420 and 457 are working together to get Connecticut through the storm.”