WHAT: National Grid workers protest over being locked out and denied access to healthcare
WHERE: National Grid AGM, Birmingham International Convention Centre, B1 2EA
WHEN: From 09:45 Monday 30 July 2018
Members of the United Steelworkers union working for the British multinational utility company National Grid in the US state of Massachusetts will be flying over from the States to protest outside the firm’s annual general meeting in Birmingham, England on Monday 30 July.
Shareholders will be warned that the hard line actions of National Grid bosses in Massachusetts risk harming the British firm’s reputation after over 1,200 workers maintaining gas supplies were locked out had their access to healthcare cut off in America on June 25 after contract negotiations broke down.
Despite workers offering to continue under the same conditions while negotiations continued, the company locked them out of work and drafted in managers and contractors to maintain gas supplies.
After three weeks of the lockout, non-emergency gas work has been suspended by local politicians in a number of cities and towns across the state of Massachusetts due to public safety concerns. This was after more than 25 safety violations by inexperienced managers and contractors were reported to the public authorities.
Despite making tremendous profits and benefiting from recent tax cuts, National Grid is determined to introduce changes that will make workers pay significantly more for their health coverage and cut benefits for new staff. The company recently received a tax cut from the Trump administration, and will raise additional income with a rates hike for US consumers.
Brian Harvey, a USW member and National Grid worker, recently found out that his young son had been diagnosed with stage three cancer. He was locked out of his job and his family’s healthcare insurance was cut off in the same week his son was scheduled for his first chemotherapy treatment.
Commenting he said: “You’re basically just a number to them. What I would say to National Grid is, ‘how greedy can you be?’ And is it worth it to you, the more money you put in your pocket, is it worth it to hurt all these people?”
Workers Uniting, a global union bringing together the UK’s largest union, Unite and the United Steelworkers, the largest industrial union in North America, is supporting the National Grid workers.
Steve Finnigan, sub-director for Workers Uniting said: “Cutting health insurance is despicable behaviour by the company. This is threatening family health in an attempt to force employees to accept worse conditions.
“This is a terrible example of heartless corporate greed and reckless disregard for public safety. National Grid needs to reinstate health insurance, end the lockout and negotiate in good faith with its workforce. Workers Uniting will remain firm in its support for these workers.”
National Grid was formed when UK electricity generation and distribution was privatised in 1990. The company is listed on the London (LSE) and New York (NYSE) stock exchanges. In the US, it provides gas and electricity to communities in the north east after acquiring a number of regional utilities companies.
For further information please contact USW press contact Ben Davis on 00 1 (202) 550-3729
The Unite press office on 020 3371 2065.