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December 7, 2012

Grid crews still unpaid for Sandy response

MINEOLA, N.Y. — Mike Valaskatgis, an overhead lineman from Gloucester, Mass., slept in his National Grid truck for two nights, and then on a cot two more nights before getting a bed in a hotel room during a 10-day visit to New York last month to help in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.

Valaskatgis said he logged 18-hour days working in various Long Island neighborhoods to restore power. He opened his latest paycheck this week, and was disgusted to see that an estimated $7,000 in overtime has yet to be paid.

“It was frustrating up until today. Now I’m angry,” he told The Associated Press Thursday in a telephone interview. “I’m going to get it eventually, but I shouldn’t have to go looking for it.”

Valaskatgis is one of thousands of National Grid utility workers complaining they have yet to be fully compensated. Some say they haven’t received their overtime pay, others contend they have gotten paychecks with zeros, while still others say payroll deductions they arranged for mortgage, child support and alimony payments were not made, according to union officials.

The problems, according to a spokesman for energy company National Grid, stem from a conversion to a new payroll software system in the weeks preceding the Oct. 29 storm that knocked out power to millions in the Northeast.

National Grid spokesman Patrick Stella said the company is working swiftly to resolve the problems, but union officials say that, just like customers who groused about being left in the dark for days or weeks longer than they expected, workers are growing increasingly impatient waiting for a resolution. Several lawsuits have been filed and complaints have been filed with state attorneys general, union officials said.

National Grid has approximately 17,000 employees in Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island. It contracts with the Long Island Power Authority to operate electric operations in the New York City suburb and parts of Queens, where more than 1 million customers lost power. Workers from all three states have complained about incorrect or overdue paychecks, union officials said.

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