Kansas Gas Service workers stage protest for better healthcare, - KCTV5

Kansas Gas Service workers stage protest for better healthcare, fair wages

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Emergency response to gas leaks in much of Johnson and Wyandotte counties could soon be impacted due to a dispute over a union contract. (Betsy Webster/KCTV5 News) Emergency response to gas leaks in much of Johnson and Wyandotte counties could soon be impacted due to a dispute over a union contract. (Betsy Webster/KCTV5 News)
Members of the United Steelworkers Local 12561 are picketing because their current contract hit its endpoint last week. (Betsy Webster/KCTV5 News) Members of the United Steelworkers Local 12561 are picketing because their current contract hit its endpoint last week. (Betsy Webster/KCTV5 News)
OVERLAND PARK, KS (KCTV) -

Emergency response to gas leaks in much of Johnson and Wyandotte counties could soon be impacted due to a dispute over a union contract.

Members of the United Steelworkers Local 12561 are picketing because their current contract hit its endpoint last week. They are still negotiating under a day-to-day contract extension but are threatening to strike if they don't get better healthcare coverage and what they call "fair wages."

They represent about half of Kansas Gas Service's staff.

A strike would not impact billing or turning existing lines on or off, but they are the ones who respond to hit lines, gas leaks and calls about gas odors. So that is what is at risk for the utility's more than 160,000 customers in the metro.

A Kansas Gas Service spokeswoman sent KCTV5 News a statement emphasizing that they are still negotiating and the crews still working.

Kansas Gas Service and the United Steelworkers (USW) have been in good faith bargaining to reach an agreement to replace the current contract that was scheduled to expire October 28, 2016.

The parties have agreed to extend their current contract to allow them to continue meeting day to day to continue negotiations as they work to reach a new agreement.  

We respect the United Steelworker’s right to engage in informational picketing. This does not mean that they have stopped performing their duties.

The first priority for Kansas Gas Service is the safety and continued service for customers and the public. Our goal is to balance the interests of all of our stakeholders while maintaining reasonable rates.

Kansas Gas Service and USW have had a collective bargaining agreement since before 1950. USW represents approximately 400 of the nearly 1,000 Kansas Gas Service employees.

Kansas Gas Service provides safe, clean and reliable natural gas to more than 160,000 customers in the Kansas City metropolitan area, including the following Kansas communities:

Fairway, Gardner, Kansas City, Leawood, Lenexa, Merriam, Mission, Mission Hills, Mission Woods, Overland Park, Prairie Village, Roeland Park, Shawnee, Stilwell and Westwood.

A strike requires approval from the union's local board and their national board, but it's hard to translate that to a number of days.

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