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Gov. Baker Reviews Benefits For Locked-Out National Grid Workers

Gov. Charlie Baker (Charles Krupa/AP)
Gov. Charlie Baker (Charles Krupa/AP)

As National Grid and the unions it has locked out resume negotiations with a "shared intent" of reaching an agreement by Friday, Gov. Charlie Baker continues to review the bill passed by the Legislature on Monday to extend unemployment benefits for locked-out workers.

The governor's office said Wednesday that the bill, which calls for benefits to be extended for 26 weeks or until a lockout has ended, is under careful review.

The bill comes as a response to National Grid's lockout of about 1,200 natural gas workers, which began in June, but it is not exclusive to this labor dispute. Under the bill, extended benefits would come from the state's unemployment trust fund and costs would be absorbed by all employers who pay into the unemployment insurance system.

After a pause in formal negotiating over the Christmas holiday, National Grid and United Steelworkers Locals 12003 and 12012 resume talks Wednesday. On Friday, the two sides issued a rare joint statement saying they "have agreed to a firm schedule to meet and bargain with the shared intent to reach an Agreement by December 28, 2018."

In a statement, Baker spokesman Brendan Moss said the administration "looks forward to the union and the company reaching a compromise to end the lockout this week."

If the two sides do agree to end the lockout this week, Baker would not necessarily have to sign the benefits extension bill and could avoid setting what he called "an unusual precedent" of state government injecting itself into a private labor dispute.

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