Labour MPs tell National Grid: End the Lockout of US Workers

By Labour Hub staff writer

Labour MPs including Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, Shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey and Chris Williamson are demanding that the boss of UK-owned National Grid takes steps to end a lock-out of over 1,200 workers in the US.  

The FTSE 100 organisation has the 5th most profitable employees in the world and generates over £350, 000 profit per employee per year. It has  locked out the workers – members of the United Steelworkers union (USW) – without access to vital healthcare since 25th June 2018 in one of the most bitter disputes over contracts, costing the taxpayer millions.

Talks between the company and Unions on new US contracts broke down four months ago, and more than 1,200 workers were locked out immediately. The locked out workers have since been manning picket lines as pressure grows on National Grid to solve the dispute which is threatening the company’s reputation and safety record. It has attracted widespread condemnation by US Congressman Joe Kennedy and Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, who have written to the company requesting the locked-out workers be reinstated to assist with the fall-out from gas explosions across the region.

More than 1,300 gas workers have now been drafted into Boston from across the country, by a huge gas company which normally relies on National Grid workers to deal with emergencies. These workers are being housed on a cruise ship costing millions of dollars. The workers in Boston have accused the company of locking out experienced workers who are critical to ensuring safety on the state’s gas grids and claim that the dispute’s hardline policy is being directed from National Grid’s UK headquarters in Warwick. Some other cities in the regions have suspended all gas works on safety grounds.

In a letter seen by Labour Hub, Williamson told National Grid CEO John Pettigrew, “these practices are deeply worrying and I would urge you to bring your influence to bear and to expedite the end of the lockout and the reinstatement of workers’ rights to healthcare and benefit entitlements”.

The Boston Globe newspaper has also joined the row and accused the National Grid of putting profits before safety. It said that the British company is using the lock-out as a bargaining chip.

Unite the Union and United Steelworkers, under their international structure Workers Uniting, reacted to National Grid’s fall in profits announced last week, calling for UK headquarter intervention to end local National Grid intransigence.

Commenting on the results, a Workers Uniting spokesperson said “National Grid’s recent earning results including a 33% fall in pre-tax profits show that global corporations cannot act with impunity and deny workers’ rights.

“While the results show that the company is already incurring significant costs for its intransigence which far outweigh the cost for reinstatement of vital employee healthcare benefits. This is not even the true picture. The workers have been locked out for over 140 days so far requiring a cruise ship to house replacement workers to tackle emergencies in the region and the cost to local taxpayers thought to be in the tens of millions.”