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Pennsylvania pipeline workers walk off job over retirement plan changes

1/6/2012 | Construction Blog, Real Estate Blog

According to the Charleston Gazette, over 700 Teamster pipeline construction workers will be walking off their jobs following failed negotiations regarding proposed changes to the Pipe Line Contractors Association’s retirement programs. Around 200 workers-whose contracts expired on December 31-will come from West Virginia and Pennsylvania, according to a spokesman from Teamsters.

According to sources, most workers from the West Virginia and Pennsylvania region have walked off jobs connected to drilling and transporting pipelines to Marcellus Shale and Utica Shale natural gas reserve drilling sites.

The dispute reportedly stems from the Pipe Line Contractors Association’s attempt to force Teamsters to accept 401(k) savings plans, which would eliminate traditional defined-benefit pensions. Pipe Line Contractors Association is based in Dallas, Texas and includes over 70 construction companies which build and maintain natural gas and oil pipeline infrastructures.

Workers have objected to the changes, as traditional pensions offer more security to workers because they provide regular monthly income at retirement, whereas 401(k) plans may be more unstable and unpredictable.

Teamsters believe that the retirement plan change is an attempt to weaken the labor force, and that doing so will be easier with respect to other unions if Teamsters are weakened first. Teamsters also accuse the industry of gouging the public in their gas and heating bills.

Sources said that 90 pipeline workers had already left their jobs as of Tuesday afternoon in Marshall and Wetzel counties.

Sources didn’t indicate how Pipe Line Contractors Association projects will be affected by the loss of workers, or how quickly the loss can be resolved.

Source: Charleston Gazette, “About 200 pipeline workers in state and Pa. to walk off job,” Paul J. Nyden, January 3, 2011.