HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) -- It has been brought up time and time again: why did it take so long for the lights to come back on following the October snowstorm? The union for Northeast Utilities has a quick answer.
"Our staffing levels, they're deplorable," said Frank Cirillo, BEW. "We're so undermanned it's not even funny."
Perhaps that answer is union rhetoric in the midst of contract negotiations, which is what Northeast Utilities CEO Thomas May says when asked if his company is short crews.
"I can assure you this is about wages and benefits and no more," May said.
Line workers, some who took the day off, rallied in Hartford Tuesday to protest what they believe is a shrinking workforce.
"My experience is the problem is worse here than it is in a lot of other places," said Ed Collins, BEW International.
Coupled with an increase in overtime requirements.
"We have guys out there that have worked 25 weekends, 30 weekends, they're constantly being forced to work, we need help," said Cirillo.
"If you are adequately staffed, why is the union saying some of these line crews have been on-call for 30 weekends during a year," asked News 8's Jamie Muro.
"These are first responders, we have to staff 24 by seven, we have to get to our customers when they want it, they don't want to have to wait for us to call crews in," said May.
Following a four day emergency drill by the state, May says he's confident his workforce will get customers back up and running as soon as humanly possible. The union believes another severe event will prove him wrong.
"We like every other business, staff for the work we have to do," May said. "That changes over time, depends on what's happening."
"The only way to get the message across, and we don't want this, is another storm when people are out of power again," Cirillo said.
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