I think it will be a long strike, said Claudia Stewart, 44, a field service represen-tatives and a veteran of the last strike against NStar in 1986. The company wanted a strike and walked away from nego-tiations. We dont want to give in on our safety concerns, staff-ing levels, or benefits for retirees.
The companys response to the strike has been to say the workers are highly paidclaiming the average NStar lineman earns $97,000 a year including over-timeand the union leadership is out of touch for not showing the com-panys last good offer to the membership. The bosses are demanding a flexible work schedule.
The union says the current company pro-posal would eliminate dental and eye care coverage for retirees. It has also pointed out that understaffing is a safety issue. There are not enough workers to do preventive mainte-nance. This point is driven home by a chant on the picket line, Hey, hey, Tom May, How many dogs have you killed today? There have been several incidents in which dogs were electrocuted from walking near unsecured electric power lines with stray volt-age. Thomas May is the chief executive officer of NStar.
Last July, a teen-ager driving down a highway in Natick, Mas-sachusetts, was maimed when an explosion of NStar underground wir-ing propelled a manhole cover through the wind-shield of his car.
Maggie Trowe and Sarah Ullman contrib-uted to this article.
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