Hundreds of Connecticut Light & Power workers began a rally outside the state capitol building in Hartford on Monday afternoon.
Union members are protesting what they call "dangerous cost-cutting measures ranging from low staffing to forced overtime."
"Any threat of weather, they force extra people on call," said Steve Casper, CL&P line worker. "They don't care what you are doing, what you have going on in your life. It's tag, you're it."
Supporters, including United States Sen. Richard Blumenthal, said CL&P's plan to cut workers will make it difficult for the utility to adequately respond to outages.
"Last year at this time, when we had a snowstorm, schools were shuttered, families had to leave their homes and seniors were endangered," Blumenthal said. "All because CL&P lacked adequate planning and staffing."
Union officials said CL&P needs to create at least another 100 line crew jobs to make the utility's response to emergencies better the next time a major event occurred within the state.
There are 200 line crews working for CL&P, which is the same amount as last year. CL&P officials said it was staffed for the amount of work it has, and would bring in outside workers if necessary.
Officials from CL&P said the "overtime work is falling on a smaller number people," mostly the senior staff because "union rules are outdated, restrictive."
Two major storms, Tropical Storm Irene in August and Winter Storm Alfred almost exactly two months later in October plunged hundreds of thousands of customers in the dark, many for more than a week.
Union officials are reaching out to elected officials to get through the current impasse with CL&P.
"We need to hold the utilities to the promises that they made, the procedures that were passed by the legislature, if they don't there will be consequences," said Connecticut Senate President Don Williams.
The union said if contract negotiations fall apart, workers will go on strike.
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