Union leaders oppose MLGW's smart meter expansion

May 12, 2013 7:42 PM EDT Updated: May 12, 2013 7:42 PM EDT
By Kontji Anthony

(WMC-TV) - As MLGW campaigns for the conversion to smart meters across the Mid-South, local union leaders are calling the units fire hazards.

Bill Hawkins of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union says MLGW's proposed smart meter expansion is a bad idea.

"We feel the customers need to know what MLGW is about to do to them," Hawkins said.

"A smart meter burned up the side of a customer's house. MLGW blamed the customer's wiring."

MLGW President Jerry Collins says smart meters are the future.

They are more accurate than analog meters, Collins says, and they "absolutely, no way cause fires."

Collins is asking the Memphis City Council for $10.1 million to buy 60,000 smart meters to do the jobs of 92 meter readers and other employees.

Collins says no one will lose their jobs as a result of smart meters. 170 positions will be eliminated over seven years through attrition.

Hawkins argues meter readers are the utility company's eyes and ears.

"Meter readers are turning in 13,000 tickets a year of things they're finding out in the field. Smart Meters will never find those things."

And though Collins says MLGW's voluntary time-of-use model has "a lot of cost savings involved," Hawkins claims the meters will result in higher utility bills -- as much as 200 to 300 percent.

In the end, City Council will have to mediate.

Copyright 2013 WMC-TV . All rights reserved.

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