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July 4, 2013

National Grid draws new fire over workers' pay

BOSTON — Utility giant National Grid, fined by the state Attorney General’s office last January over similar charges that encompassed a problem involving a Gloucester line worker, is once again coming under fire for repeatedly failing to pay its workers what they are owed in timely fashion.

“National Grid, make no mistake about it, is a company in crisis,” said Brotherhood of Utility Workers Council President Dan Hurley, who said a new payroll system resulted in workers going unpaid after working during Tropical Storm Sandy last year, and it has failed to reflect the pay increases contained in a new contract signed May 11.

That claim was adamantly denied by Grid officials, whose territory includes Gloucester and Cape Ann.

“We’re not a company in crisis,” said National Grid spokeswoman Jackie Barry. She said the company’s switch to the new system in October was complicated by Sandy’s landing across the East Coast shortly afterwards.

“We had thousands of employees working in locations that were not their usual work locations,” she said.

Hurley, who said the payroll problem affects both union and non-union workers for the power company, filed a new, June 26 wage complaint with the office of Attorney General Martha Coakley, who fined the company $270,000 in January for failing to pay workers on time for their work during Sandy. Barry said National Grid had not challenged that fine, and made the payment.

One of those workers left unpaid for an extended time last fall was lineman Mike Valaskatgis of Gloucester, who was part of National Grid’s aid response to Mineola, N.Y., and other areas after Sandy hit in late October and was still owed mloney by the utility into the new year.

Valaskatgis and his crew were on the Sandy cleanup and recovery scene for 10 days, working daily 18-hour shifts with 6 hours of sleep time in between. In an emailed response to the fines from the Attorney General’s office at that time, National Grid said that “we know this situation has been difficult for many of our employees and we have apologized to them.

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