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Penelec Ends Lockout, Still No Deal

Penelec, Union continue negotiations.
ALTOONA - For the 1st time in nearly five months the protests at Penelec have stopped, but even with all 142 employees heading back to work next week, a deal may not be as close as it seems.
 
“This is a huge victory for the members of Local 180 and the folks that work out of Altoona, Lewistown and Shippensburg,” UWUA Local 180 President Bob Whalen says.
 
Since November 25th the local workers have been locked out by First Energy.
 
“We are in our 20th week. We have decided to end the lockout. Bring the workers back under the terms of the last, best and final offer we made to the workers on November 6th of 2013,” First Energy Spokesperson Scott Surgeoner says.
 
While both sides say the end of the lockout is a step in the right direction. The two remain far apart when it comes to actually reaching a deal.
 
“The offer does include wage increases, meal allowances, shift differential and does add a classification to improve customer service. We believe that's a fair offer,” Surgeoner says.
 
But the issue for the union continues to be cutting off retiree benefits. Something they say the company isn't budging on.
 
“We're trying to get a contract with a company that has been very difficult to deal with. They tried to break our people's backs by locking them out the week of Thanksgiving,” Whalen says.
 
Negotiations are scheduled to continue next week, but with the union pursuing legal options against the company a deal still could be a long way away.
 
“We've got a long way to go. 1st we need to obtain a contract and then see where that takes us with a Union/Management work relationship down the road,” Whalen says.
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