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Union leaders back CH-Fortis merger

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The leadership of Local 320 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers endorsed the billion-dollar merger between Central Hudson and Canadian company Fortis Inc. Specifics of the agreement will be voted on by the union membership later this week.

Local 320 represents some 650 workers from its Poughkeepsie headquarters.

“Our members are committed to serving our customers here in the Hudson Valley, and we look forward to a positive working relationship as part of the Fortis federation of utilities now that we have agreed upon mutually beneficial elements of the merger,” said John P. Kaiser, president of Local 320.

“We greatly value our relationship with the members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, who are equally committed to the customers and communities we serve,” said Steven V. Lant, chairman and C.E.O. of Central Hudson. “The merger offers nearly $50 million in benefits for our customers, a one-year rate freeze, increased performance requirements, a commitment to continue our strong support for local community organizations – and now, additional protections for employees. It is clearly in the best interest of all, and we welcome the IBEW’s endorsement of this exciting new chapter in our company’s history.”

“We are very pleased that we have been able to provide this added job security to the unionized workforce at Central Hudson,” said Fortis CFO Barry Perry. “We recognize their critical importance to our successful future, just as we value the contributions of the IBEW members who serve in the utilities we operate across Canada.”

Should the deal materialize, the union and CH “will extend the current labor agreement one year” to April 2017; there will be a “no layoff” commitment for four years; and there is a deal to retain critical service-oriented job functions within the union and to add positions.

All elements of the agreement are contingent upon the successful closing of the merger between Central Hudson’s parent company CH Energy Group and Fortis. A pair of administrative law judges May 3 said negatives of the proposed merger outweighed positives, but the two companies have pressed on with their plans to merge.

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