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Late-night deal averts strike at power plant in LIC

A last-minute settlement between management and labor at the Ravenswood Power Station in Long Island City averted a strike by 131 at the plant that supplies a third of the city's electricity.

The workers were prepared to walk off their jobs if no settlement was reached with KeySpan by 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, said Steve Mangione, a spokesman for the union, Local 1-2 Utility Workers Union of America.

Before the accord was reached Shawn Rosvold, a spokesman for KeySpan, said only that the company was willing to negotiate but also had a plan to keep the plant running in case workers went on strike.

Although the two sides were still talking late Tuesday night, negotiations had broken off the week before and Mangione, who spoke with the TimesLedger June 19, accused management of bargaining in bad faith.

"They've put a package on the table that is really insulting to the people that work for them," he said.

Issues of contention, Mangione said, included wages, increases, medical benefits, improvements to the 401(k) plan, pensions and worker safety issues he called "very critical." The union opposes the use of non-union contract labor working alongside its members because they are not bound by the same safety standards.

Mangione accused KeySpan of "cutting corners to save time" in its use of the non-union contractors.

Rosvold would not comment on any specifics of the talks, except to say that the company had negotiated in good faith and was confident it would reach an agreement with the union.

He also took exception to union claims that a strike would have crippled the 2,168-megawatt facility, leading to power outages and blackouts.

"We have contingency plans for just about any eventuality that you can think of," Rosvold said last week. "The plant would not shut down and there would not be shortages."

Rosvold could not discuss the specifics of that contingency plan.

But Mangione said that with peak summer demand approaching, any contingency plan that did not include the 131 skilled union laborers represented by Local 1-2 would put the facility at risk.

"If I were a resident, business, institution or an educational facility, I would be very concerned," he said.

The 32-acre plant on the East River waterfront produces power from multiple sources including natural gas and kerosene. On any single day, it is responsible for one quarter to one third of the total energy consumed by New York City.

Reach reporter Alex Ginsberg by e-mail at timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.

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