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US and British steelworkers' union call on National Grid to end the lockout in Massachusetts

Unite and the United Steelworkers union have criticised the transnational electricity corporation for locking out 1,200 workers

STEELWORKERS’ unions on both sides of the Atlantic have called on National Grid to let thousands of US employees return to work.

The United Steelworkers and Unite have criticised the transnational electricity firm for locking out 1,200 workers in Massachusetts.

The lockout was caused by widespread workforce opposition to the management policy of altering employment contracts, which workers see as an attempt to reduce company contributions to their healthcare, pension and pay entitlements.

Having made a record £3.59 billion profit in the first half of this year, the company can hardly plead poverty.

Talks between the United Steelworkers and National Grid, which supplies electricity to 85 towns in Massachusetts, broke down in June.

What followed has become one of the most bitter industrial disputes in the US for a generation, with workers complaining of their families being denied access to company-provided healthcare services.

According to figures published by National Grid today, the lockout has cost the company about £97 million over the past three months.

To maintain services, it has brought in thousands of temporary workers from across the country.

Human rights groups have also criticised National Grid for denying healthcare to the locked-out workers and their families, while Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren has urged National Grid to end the dispute.

Unite national officer Peter McIntosh said: “As a leading UK company on the world stage, National Grid should uphold the highest corporate governance and worker engagement standards for employees in every country it operates in.

“We call on the National Grid UK leadership team, including John Pettigrew CEO, to work to end the lockout immediately.”

Boston United Steelworkers president Joe Kirylo said: “It’s disturbing that National Grid would be eager to lock out experienced workers who are responsible every day for delivering competent, safe and reliable gas services.

“This lockout is jeopardising the safety of residents and communities across the state. If National Grid refuses to end this irresponsible and reckless behaviour, it’s time for the state to demand that the company do so.”

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