Code is Key to Pa. Utility PLAs
February 10, 2014
Four project labor agreements between IBEW and PPL Electric Utilities in Pennsylvania to upgrade miles of aging power lines will soon require 400 to 500 outside journeymen linemen. This is good news for Keystone State members and for travelers from as far away as Alaska.
“We have developed a great partnership with PPL, upholding the IBEW Code of Excellence,” says Wilkes-Barre Local 1319 Business Manager Hank Stanski, who teamed up with Third District International Representative Rich Redmond and Business Manager Richard Muttik of Collegeville Local 126 to negotiate the agreements.
“Some of the structures are 190 feet high. PPL and the IBEW absolutely need workers who promote safety on the job and maintain the drug-free standard of the Code of Excellence,” says Stanski, who meets with PPL at a quarterly roundtable of all contractors to discuss how to best meet the needs of PPL’s customers.
The company is spending $1 billion a year on upgrades.
The Susquehanna-Roseland power line, a 500 kilovolt line to improve the reliability of the electrical grid in the Northeast is under construction, due to be completed in 2015. PPL’s agreement with IBEW will cover a 100-mile section between Berwick, Pa. and Roseland, N.J.
The Northeast-Pocono Reliability Project, a 60-mile series of 230 kilovolt lines and new regional substations, also covered by a PLA, will improve PPL’s reliability in northeast Pennsylvania. The project is due to last a year and a half.
“We have a lot of good guys who care about what we do. It’s great to see all of them making a good living staying close to home for the next five years,” says 14-year Local 1319 lineman Tony Gitkos who works on the Pocono line for Harlan Electric, a signatory outside contractor based in Michigan.
“I’ve been business manager since 1992 and I’ve never seen work pile up like this,” Stanski says. Local 1319’s crews are fully employed.
The IBEW testified in public hearings in support of PPL’s transmission line upgrades. Building support, says Stanski, was difficult, but PPL’s commitment to invest money upfront, recouping some of their spending through consumer electric bill increases spread over 25 years helped make the case for the new construction.
“Sometimes we were overwhelmed by opponents of the projects at hearings,” says Stanski, “but we talked about how the building trades who are working on the lines would be shopping in local stores, filling hotel rooms and buying cars, helping the regional economy.”
“These [project labor] agreements have led to increased cooperation and partnerships between PPL Electric Utilities and IBEW Locals 1319 and 126,” says Kent Senior, PPL’s labor and employment vice president.
“The IBEW Code of Excellence stresses safe, high-quality and productive work practices on these important infrastructure projects. We believe strongly that this type of agreement is the model of the future for labor and management working together to serve customers and provide quality jobs for union workers,” Senior says.
“The PLAs are a reflection of the relationship we have built with PPL,” Redmond says. Before the first agreement was signed, IBEW invited PPL’s president of operations to the Local 126 union safety and training facilities where the local showcased its safety training and apprenticeship program. “The firsthand contact forged a bond,” he says.