BOSTON (CBS) – A union official said it’s “shameful” that National Grid President Marcy Reed flew to Hawaii for her 25th wedding anniversary days before Tropical Storm Irene impacted Massachusetts.
Reed flew to Hawaii last Thursday, and on Friday, National Grid decided to cancel all employee vacations until further notice as Irene, a hurricane at the time, approached. Reed said she “felt very bad” that she was already on her vacation when that decision was made.
David Leonardi, President of the Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA) Local 369, said a “significant number” of employees canceled their vacations as a result of the storm.
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“I’m really disappointed to find out that as our members are having their vacation canceled, she decided it was time to take a trip to Hawaii. I just think it’s appalling,” said Leonardi. “I think it’s all hands on deck with a situation like this with so many customers out of service, and the expectation at least for our members is that everyone pitches in and does their part.”
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Reed cut her own vacation short when she was alerted about Irene’s severity. In a statement, officials with National Grid’s Massachusetts division said that Reed had difficulty finding a new flight, delaying her return to Massachusetts.
“Given widespread travel disruptions across the US, the earliest flight she could get was Monday. As soon as she landed on Tuesday, she began meeting with affected communities,” said National Grid in a statement.
Reed, who said she took part in pre-planning meetings ahead of Irene, also clarified that Ellen Smith, the company’s chief operations officer, is in charge as big storms approach, and would have been in charge whether she was on vacation or not.
“The fact that I was out of the state for four days made absolutely zero difference to the restoration of service to our customers,” said Reed.
Leonardi, however, blamed management decisions, staff cuts and a lack of preventative maintenance for the delay in restoring power across Massachusetts.
“Our members are out there working very hard, they’re doing the best they can under a very difficult situation. It’s not their fault that the power’s not on,” said Leonardi.