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Union lawyer: Enstar trying to cause strike

By Bonney Bowman Photojournalist: Nick Swann - 8:23 PM July 10, 2014

Reps for Enstar’s workers’ union say employees will walk off the job after eleventh-hour negotiations fell apart.

The gas company and their union are at an impasse.

Union reps say the strike will happen on or after July 24. If their employees do walk off the job, Enstar will be to blame, they said.

The union says time and time again they’ve offered concessions and proposals and time and time again Enstar hasn’t budged.

After two days of discussion, Enstar’s best and final offer was almost identical to the one union members rejected three weeks ago, said Chuck Dunnagan, lawyer for United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local Union 367.

“That doesn’t fix the health, it doesn’t really fix the pension, it wasn’t enough money so we could actually take this to anybody and say hey, they’ve put it someplace else, think about this again,” Dunnagan said.

Enstar is owned in part by Michigan-based company Semco.

Dunnagan says he thinks it’s these Michigan managers who are pulling the strings.

“They say it’s purely coincidental the 2.25 percent is what the Semco employees got, it’s purely coincidental that they ended the pension plan for the Semco employees and so on.”

Some of those Michigan managers are already here in Alaska. Dunnagan says Enstar employees are being forced to train them in field work.

“When the employees go out on strike, they’re just going to simply assign their managers to do those jobs until the strike is over,” said Dunnagan, adding it isn’t a safe solution.

KTVA reached out to Enstar for comment. Business development director John Sims said he didn’t have time to go on camera with us, but he issued this statement:

“Enstar and Local 367 have met and proposals have been exchanged where substantial movement was made. Enstar’s last proposal to the union had no reductions in health care and retirement benefits for all current employees and included an increase in wages for the next three years.”

Dunnagan says that’s true, but those wage increases don’t keep up with inflation and new employees would be kept out of those benefits.

He says it’s an example of how he thinks Enstar is twisting the truth.

“I think they’re trying to cause a strike. I think that they have misstated any number of things to us and I’ve told them that,” Dunnagan said. ”That’s actually a problem now with working with them, that there isn’t a great deal of trust.”

After receiving his initial comment, KTVA reached out to Sims with more questions, including why Enstar brought in out-of-state workers before negotiations wrapped up, what role Semco is playing and why the company is working to cut benefits during a time of record profits.

He never responded to our questions.

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