NPL is a subcontractor for Avista in Jackson and Josephine counties. Its workers build and repair natural gas pipelines. If a construction crew in the area accidentally hits a gas line, NPL’s workers are often called to the scene.
Union employees say the company doesn’t pay them enough or offer decent benefits, which has resulted in high turnover rates.
“We have a high turnover rate here — sometimes 40 percent in a year, which could mean half of our employees have less than a year of experience,” says pipe fuser Robert Laidlaw. “We need higher wages so people could afford to stay here and work.”
Laidlaw says wages can start at $15 an hour — just a few dollars above minimum wage — whereas other workers in similar companies get paid twice as much. And, they offer a pension or some sort of retirement package, something NPL doesn’t provide, according to Laidlaw.
In a press release, the Utility Workers Union of America says high turnover rates and inexperienced employees has led to accidents, including 25 serious injury incidents at NPL in 2018.
NPL Construction representatives say their employment package is competitive for the area, and that high turnover rates are common in this line of work.
Workers say they’ll continue to strike until NPL is willing to negotiate a better contract.