A union sued National Grid Plc (NG/) in Brooklyn, New York, federal court, alleging the utility failed to pay overtime wages to workers putting in 60- to 80-hour work- weeks repairing damage from Hurricane Sandy.
Transport Workers Union of America Local 101 alleged in a Nov. 15 complaint that the utility’s workers in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Long Island, New York, were paid nothing for work in excess of 40 hours a week for the past three weeks. A spokeswoman for the London-based utility company, Karen Young, said the company is trying to fix an automated payroll problem.
The storm hit the Northeast region of the U.S. on Oct. 29 and is estimated to have caused as much as $33 billion in damages in New York. National Grid provides natural gas service to the area.
“My members are working but they’re getting frustrated,” Michael Conigliaro, president of Brooklyn-based Local 101, said in a phone interview. Storm-related repairs and inspections to gas lines and boilers may go on for another two months, he said.
The company implemented a payroll system change just before the storm that likely caused the overtime pay problems, he said. No specific deadline has been provided for when it will be fixed and workers will be fully paid, he said.
Young said in a statement that National Grid “takes the timely and accurate compensation of its employees very seriously.”
“All affected employees will be made whole as soon as possible,” she said.
A lawyer for the union, Arthur Schwartz, said the workers may still be owed damages under labor laws even if the international utility eventually pays all of the wages due. Some of the workers lived in areas severely affected by the storm, including Staten Island, Breezy Point and Howard Beach in Queens, and Coney Island in Brooklyn, Conigliaro said.
“We do know the devastation that’s down there because that’s our areas,” he said.
The case is Conigliaro v. National Grid, 12-5627, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).
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