The California Public Utilities Commission postponed a vote on rate increases for Southern California Gas and San Diego Gas & Electric this week. Union workers for a SoCal Gas contractor have been questioning whether such an increase should be granted in light of claims about safety and labor violations. In an attempt to link labor concerns with SoCal?s rates, union representative Henry Rodriguez told the CPUC on October 7 that Northern Pipeline laid off or fired workers after they protested proposed rate hikes at the commission in August 2003. The union alleged safety and labor violations by SoCal?s contractor Northern Pipeline Construction. Ten employees were dismissed for their complaints, according to the Southern California District Council of Laborers. SoCal Gas is keeping its distance from these complaints. ?We don?t believe it?s appropriate for SoCal Gas to be involved in labor disputes between one of our contractors and its respective unions,? said Richard Beamish, SoCal Gas spokesperson. The workers are employed by Northern Pipeline, not SoCal Gas, Beamish said. ?Such disputes and allegations should be handled by their employer,? he added. Asbestos exposure ?happened all the time,? according to Benito Martinez, a former employee with Northern Pipeline, while the company was under contract with SoCal Gas. While targeting alleged safety hazards, the legal claims don?t deal with claims of asbestos exposure because of workers? fear of reprisal, said Mario Brito, Southern California District Council of Laborers assistant director of organizing. The union let Sempra, parent company of SoCal Gas, know about dangerous asbestos conditions, but the concerns were ignored, according to Brito.