Gov. Charlie Baker speaks at a Lawrence press conference in the wake of the September explosions and fires across the Merrimack Valley. (Jay Saulnier file photograph for WHAV News)
Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday signed a bill to extend unemployment benefits for locked-out workers, legislation for which unions of locked-out gas workers have clamored.
Workers locked out since June 25 are due to exhaust their unemployment benefits in mid-January. As outlined by the State House News Service, the new bill calls for benefits to be extended for 26 weeks or until a lockout has ended, immediately to help families during the holiday season.
Baker was on board with the Legislature as it explored ways to help locked-out workers and has for the last week said the benefits extension bill was under careful review. He expressed some apprehension about setting what he called “an unusual precedent” of having state government involve itself in a private business dispute and has continually urged National Grid and the unions to end the lockout.
In signing the bill Monday, Baker said it will help contribute to the safety of the state’s natural gas system in tandem with a gas safety bill that still needs a Senate vote to get to his desk.
“I eagerly await the Legislature’s approval of our bill to strengthen natural gas safety procedures and urge both National Grid and the Steelworkers union to swiftly reach consensus so that utility customers can receive the level of service and safety they deserve,” Baker said.