Cape Cod Canal plant workers authorize strike

By GEORGE BRENNAN

October 23, 2014

SANDWICH — Union workers at the NRG Energy Canal Generating Plant voted unanimously Wednesday to authorize a strike at the plant, Dan Hurley, president of the Local 369 Utility Workers Union of America, said.

A contract for the plant's 26 union workers is due to expire Oct. 30 and the vote authorizes the union to call a strike if a settlement can't be reached, Hurley said.

"It doesn't mean we will strike, but it gives us that option," he said.

Workers cited working conditions, safety concerns and a proposed boost in their share of health care costs as some of the issues.

"It's very rare to get a unanimous vote," Hurley said. "It goes to show you that the workers there are sick of it. It's like a modern-day sweatshop."

David Gaier, a spokesman for NRG, said the company remains hopeful it can work out a new contract with the employees, despite the vote.

"We're working with them to offer a competitive package," Gaier said.

NRG took over ownership of the Cape Cod Canal plant in a 2012 merger with GenOn. Over the past decade, the plant has had multiple owners and has undergone staffing cuts. The plant operates as a so-called capacity plant, operating during peak hot and cold seasons when the demand for electricity is at its greatest.

The plant workers are represented by the same union that in 2012 authorized a strike at Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station. In that case, workers were locked out for a month before the union and Entergy, the owner of Pilgrim, reached a four-year contract.

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