Arbitration Upholds Firings by Consumers Energy after Deadly Explosion
An arbitrator has upheld the firing of union employees by Consumers Energy in Detroit. The employees were fired in the wake of a natural gas explosion in Royal Oak in 2013 that killed one man and destroyed his home while damaging numerous others.
Consumers Energy fired the employees after an investigation it claimed revealed they had not followed established safety procedures, and this failure led directly to the tragedy. The union representing the workers filed a complaint, which triggered the automatic binding arbitration clause in the union’s contract with the utility.
The union has officially endorsed the arbitration finding, stating that it was important to establish precedent for other employees but that it fully supports the finding of the arbitration panel, releasing a statement that read in part “It’s up the arbitrator to decide if justice was done; he made a ruling, and we stand behind the arbitrator’s ruling.”
The employees were accused of not performing required checks for gas line before digging, for leaving the scene when they smelled gas without alerting residents, and various other procedural errors. Two non-union supervisors were also fired.