Local 550 Lobbies Congress to Stop Unnecessary Layoffs

A change in the Department of Energy’s (DOE) work scope for the cleanup of the former Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant (PGDP) in Kentucky will cause the unnecessary layoff of 103 USW workers in October 2017, according to Local 550.

A work scope defines the type of activity to be performed in an agreement between the DOE and a contractor. (See the accompanying story about the work scope change.)

Local 550 members are lobbying Congress to pressure the DOE into adding more work scopes into its contract with new Paducah deactivation contractor Four Rivers Nuclear Partnership (FRNP) so those who are likely to be laid off can still work on the massive cleanup job.

“There is other available work at the Paducah plant,” said Local 550 Vice President Jim Key. “DOE can direct the new contractor to perform the additional work, and it will not cost any more money. Congress already has appropriated the necessary funds as requested for Fiscal Year (FY) 17, so we shouldn’t have this layoff.”

A major problem, Key said, is that DOE directed all bidding contractors for the new work scope to place their bids to $140 million for the agency’s Request for Proposal (RFP). This was $30 million less than what the current operating costs are for the PGDP cleanup project.

Local 550’s concern is that DOE will take the leftover Paducah-allotted funds and use them elsewhere in the nuclear complex.

DOE led Congress to believe that with its appropriation the cleanup work at the Paducah site would continue for a long time and keep workers employed.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Sen. Rand Paul, and Rep. James Comer released a statement regarding the layoff announcement, calling it “a serious disappointment.” They urged DOE Secretary Rick Perry to visit the Paducah site, and demanded “information from DOE and its partners on the justification for this planned reduction in workforce and its impact on operations at the site.”

WARN Notice Sent

DOE’s contracts with contractors Fluor Federal Services (Fluor) and LATA-Sharp Remediation Services (LATA) ends Oct. 19, 2017. LATA was a subcontractor to prime contractor Fluor and handled all the waste management responsibilities related to the deactivation work that Fluor handled.

LATA sent out WARN (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act) letters dated Aug. 15, 2017 to their employees.

Key said the USW successfully inserted a union recognition clause into DOE’s RFP for contractors to bid on the new work scope. Now, the union has a “follow-on” agreement with FRNP, and Fluor’s USW-represented workers will transition to the new contractor—except for the 86 operators who were hired to shoot the uranium enrichment cells with Chlorine Trifluoride (CLF3) to remove uranium deposits.

At LATA, 17 USW-represented employees will be impacted by the layoff, Key said, and the contractor said the layoffs would be handled in accordance with the collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

Those who have not found a job with FRNP by Oct. 19, 2017 will be laid off. Key said FRNP posted mostly managerial, professional and administrative job listings on the bulletin boards—positions the operators and LATA workers cannot perform for lack of qualifications. Hence, the importance of DOE adding additional work scopes to FRNP.

What You Can Do

Local 550 said that Congress needs to pressure DOE to assign additional scopes of work to FRNP. They urged USW workers to contact the following key senators and representative:

Senator Mitch McConnell
317 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Phone (202) 224-2541
Fax (202) 224-2499

Senator Rand Paul
208 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Phone (202) 224-4343
Fax (202) 228-6917

Rep. James Comer
1513 Longworth HOB
Washington, D.C. 20515
Phone (202) 225-3115

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