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Power line fault causing minor damage elements

3 September 2009 785 views No Comment

A London-area electrical utility, whose workers are on strike, is asking the public for help to stop the “sabotaging” of its power lines.

Erth Corp., parent company of small utility-related companies serving about 14,000 customers in Aylmer, Ingersoll, Central Elgin, Norwich and several other municipalities, says police are investigating four incidents in which lines and other equipment was vandalized, including a traffic light.

“With the strike, we’re short staffed and we want to keep the lights on and to have someone fooling with the system is a problem,” said chief executive officer Jeff Pettit.

The vandalism caused minor outages.

Fifty-one employees who work for two Erth subsidiaries — CRU Solutions and Erie Thames Powerlines — members of the Power Workers Union, have been on strike since June 21.

Pettit said the company has never experienced similar vandalism, but fell short of accusing striking workers.

“We don’t know, that’s a tough one,” said Pettit. “It could be anybody.”

A union spokesperson could not immediately be reached for comment.

A company news release said the suspects are “most likely using long poles to manipulate switches located at the top of roadside hydro poles and generally situated in secluded areas with reduced visibility.

“In addition to causing inconvenience and costly disruptions, these activities are very dangerous and they put the individuals involved and the public at risk,” the company said.

A key issue in the strike is a company proposal to increase the work week to 45 hours from 40, a move the union says will put the safety of workers at risk.

The workers rejected an offer tabled in late July that would increase wages 3% in each year of the four-year term, along with a variety of other monetary and benefit improvements.

joe.belanger@sunmedia.ca

By JOE BELANGER

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